Those in the news who left us in 2017

Loved or unloved, these well-known fig­ures have left their mark on the Arab world

The National - News - - NEWS - Shereen Hafidh


Kuwaiti co­me­dian and ac­tor Abdulhussain Abdulredha em­bod­ied the golden age of Kuwaiti theatre, and was known as the fa­ther of com­edy. He was a founder of the arts move­ment in Kuwait. His quick-wit­ted ban­ter in per­for­mances such as

Bye Bye Lon­don and Saif Al Arab of­fered in­sight into Arab so­ci­ety and Kuwait at the time of the in­va­sion by Iraq. Abdulredha re­ceived many honours in a ca­reer span­ning more than 50 years, in­clud­ing the Sul­tan bin Ali Al Owais Cul­tural Award for artis­tic and cul­tural achieve­ment in the Arab world in 1997. He died of a heart at­tack in Lon­don on Au­gust 11 at the age of 78.


Belfkih was one of the first Arab stars to emerge from Ye­men. From hum­ble be­gin­nings per­form­ing nasheeds (spir­i­tual odes) in Tarim, Ye­men, he rose to be­come a gi­ant of Arab folk mu­sic, re­leas­ing more than 20 al­bums and play­ing sold-out con­certs for more than 30 years. His mil­lion-sell­ing songs in­clude Lima Alqee Al Habib (When I Find My Love), Khaf Rabek (Fear

your God) and 24 Sa’aa (24 Hours), all con­sid­ered clas­sics in the tra­di­tional tarab genre of Arab mu­sic. He died on De­cem­ber 10 af­ter a long bat­tle with heart dis­ease. He was 78.


Known in the US as the Blind Sheikh (he lost his sight due to child­hood di­a­betes), the Egyp­tian-born mil­i­tant Mus­lim leader was con­victed of con­spir­acy in the 1993 World Trade Cen­tre bomb­ing and sen­tenced to life in prison. At the time of the at­tack he was fac­ing de­por­ta­tion for pro­vid­ing false in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing his mar­riage sta­tus and a bad cheque charge in Egypt. He died of nat­u­ral causes at the Fed­eral Med­i­cal Cen­tre in But­ner, North Carolina on Fe­bru­ary 18, aged 78.


The out­spo­ken Syr­ian ac­tress made her name in Syr­ian tele­vi­sion shows such as The Di­ary of

Abou An­tar, Lit­tle Ladies, and Small Hearts. Suleiman be­came one of the most recog­nised faces of the Syr­ian civil war for lead­ing protests and sit-ins against the gov­ern­ment of Bashar Al As­sad. Op­po­si­tion Forces called her “one of the sym­bols of the Syr­ian rev­o­lu­tion”. She fled to France in 2012 to es­cape a death sen­tence and af­ter her fam­ily dis­owned her. She died of can­cer in Paris on Au­gust 17, aged just 47.


An Iraqi Kurd, Talabani was the first non-Arab pres­i­dent of Iraq from 2006 to 2014 and the founder and leader of one of the main Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the Pa­tri­otic Union of Kur­dis­tan. A vet­eran of the Kur­dish strug­gle for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, he was seen as a uni­fy­ing el­der states­man who could soothe tem­pers among Iraq’s Shi­ites, Sun­nis and Kurds, and was nick­named Mam Jalal (Un­cle Jalal) by Iraqi Kurds and Arabs. He stepped down as pres­i­dent in 2014 af­ter 18 months of treat­ment in Ger­many af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke. He died of brain haem­or­rhage on Oc­to­ber 3 in Ber­lin, aged 83.


Known as the “Mother of Egyp­tians”, she was one of the first women in the coun­try to gain a bach­e­lor’s de­gree and be­gan her ca­reer in ra­dio on a 1950s chil­dren’s show be­cause her par­ents dis­ap­proved of film act­ing. That changed when she mar­ried ac­tor and di­rec­tor Noor Al De­mer­dash, who en­cour­aged her am­bi­tion. Over half a cen­tury she be­came fa­mous for play­ing mother roles in films such as The Kids Have Grown

Up and The Grand­son. When she died at the age of 82 on Jan­uary 12, the na­tion mourned. Even the Is­raeli army’s Ara­bic spokesman paid trib­ute to her on Twit­ter.


Born Fatma Shaker, the Egyp­tian ac­tress and singer took the stage name Shadia in the 1950s. She acted in come­dies, ro­man­tic films and dra­mas, but it was her singing that es­tab­lished her as one of the most im­por­tant Egyp­tian cin­ema stars of her era. The pub­lic adored her and she starred in more than 100 films, many of them de­pict­ing so­cial is­sues. Her most fa­mous

roles were in El Less wal Ki­lab (Chased by Dogs) and Al­zouga Talat­tasha (The Thir­teenth Wife). One of her most pop­u­lar songs, Ya Habibti Ya Masr (Oh My Beloved

Egypt), be­came an an­them dur­ing Egypt’s Arab Spring protests in 2011. She re­tired in 1987 and died af­ter a stroke on No­vem­ber 28. She was 86.


The former pres­i­dent of Ye­men met his death, aged 75, at the hands of the Houthi rebels he had cho­sen as al­lies in a bid to re­cover the power he had lost in 2012 when he was forced to re­sign. Saleh was the first leader to serve as pres­i­dent of a uni­fied Ye­men and ruled the coun­try with an iron fist for 33 years. He was forced from of­fice af­ter the Arab Spring and al­most im­me­di­ately be­gan plot­ting against his suc­ces­sor, Ab­drabu Mansur Hadi. But af­ter two years of civil war, he dis­carded the Houthis and they killed him, at­tack­ing his con­voy out­side the Ye­meni cap­i­tal, Sanaa, on De­cem­ber 4.


The Saudi bil­lion­aire arms dealer was as one of the world’s rich­est men in the 1970s and 1980s. Born in Makkah, Khashoggi amassed $4 bil­lion bro­ker­ing deals be­tween US com­pa­nies and the Saudi gov­ern­ment, among other clients. He was im­pli­cated in the Iran-Con­tra af­fair as a key mid­dle­man in the arms-for-hostages ex­change. He was ar­rested in 1988 in Switzer­land and charged with fraud, con­spir­acy and rack­e­teer­ing. The charges were later re­duced to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, and he was ac­quit­ted in 1990. He died while be­ing treated for Parkin­son’s dis­ease in Lon­don on June 6, aged 81.

AFP; Aleti­had; EPA

Clock­wise from top: Abdulhussain Abdulredha; Shadia; Jalal Talabani; Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh; Omar Ab­del-Rah­man; Karima Mokhtar; Fadwa Suleiman

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