Damascus bid farewell to Hatem Ali, one of the city’s most prominent directors, on Friday. The funeral procession was held after his casket’s arrival from Cairo, where he had died of a heart attack on Tuesday.
The Syrian capitals’ Al-Hassan Mosque was filled with mourners, some holding up his picture. As soon as his casket was taken out of the mosque, the crowd began to applaud, cry out in prayer and chant his name.
Dozens of cars took part in the funeral motorcade that passed through the streets of Damascus before he was buried in the Bab el-Saghir Cemetery.
Syrian and Arab social media was brimming with messages of mourning over director, who had worked on many of the past two decades’ most renowned television series.
His sudden death inside his hotel room in Cairo came as a shock, especially since he had not been showing any signs of illness before his heart attack.
A rare sight since the Syrian conflict began, the Syrian people, loyalists and opponents of the regime, were unanimous in celebrating his journey and legacy. He was mourned by dozens of artists outside of Syria, some of whom are vocal activists opposed to the regime, and others who remained inside the county.
The Syrian Artists Syndicate only announced Ali’s death on Tuesday, highlighting some of his works without formally mourning him, a move that was widely criticized on social media.
The director’s membership, alongside that of around 200 other Syrian artists, was revoked in the summer of 2015 under the pretext that they had not paid their membership fees, which the syndicate had said it would only accept to receive from the artists in person. This was not an option for many of the artists who had left the country during the conflict.
At the time, many artists and activists drew a link between the artists’ expulsion from the syndicate and their political positions, as they were either openly opposed to the regime or had abstained from declaring their support for it.
Born in 1962, Ali began his career as an actor, working with director Haitham Haqqi on the series Circle of Fire in 1988. He moved to directing television series in the mid-1990s, during which he worked on many feature TV films.
He has directed a number of series, some of the most notable include Maraya, Four Seasons, Al Zeer Salem, Salaheddine Al Ayyubi, Al Taghribiyya Al Filistiniyya, King Farouk, and Omar.
Cairo-based prominent Syrian actor and opposition figure, Jamal Sulieman, who had collaborated with Ali on several projects, mourned his death on Facebook.
“Your sudden departure was a grave shock and left in grief not only your family, friends and all of those who enjoyed working with you during your career, but people throughout the Arab world,” he wrote.