Failing the Masses: Buthaina Shabaan and the Public Intellectual Crisis
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AbstractThis article discusses the problematic and double-sided role of the public intellectual in the Syrian revolution, which started on March 15, 2011 and is still unfolding. When recently challenged by Syrians, the regime enforced its control by carrying out military operations against its own citizens, not without endorsement by a large portion of the population. The article follows the case of Buthaina Shabaan (b.1953-), the writer, professor, and advocate of the Syrian regime. While spurring the populace to embrace the possibility of democratic reform, this female intellectual has accepted—even embraced—the political control employed by an authoritarian one-party regime, which uses her as a representative of their supposed progressive and women’s liberation agendas. Shabaan has been playing a significant role in supporting and ultimately sustaining a totalitarian regime, compromising in the process the interests of women and even children, for whose cause she has long claimed to be a champion and a spokesperson. The shift of Shabaan from being a feminist to serving the propaganda of the regime has damaged her integrity as an intellectual. This shift requires not only a revisionary approach to the Western reception of her, but also an analysis of the way the Syrian people have perceived her role in undermining the revolution.