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Appointment in Aleppo: The Making of a Suicide Bomber

Translated from the Persian by Diane L. Wilcox
Quick Overview

"Appointment in Aleppo" was first published in Persian in 2004, although Modarres-Sadeghi had completed the writing of the novel two years earlier, in other words, in the wake of the tragic events of the morning of September 11, 2001, that is, the suicide attacks on important trade and government centers of the United States by a group of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda. Like everyone else around the world, upon hearing the tragic news, Modarress-Sadeghi was undoubtedly in a state of shock and disbelief, and this should have triggered in him the urgent need to find answers to many questions regarding the historical roots and the contemporary root causes of such horrendous acts and the makeup and the making of their perpetrators.

The protagonist of "Appointment in Aleppo" is a Pakistani agent who has been working as an instructor and trainer in a camp of Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan for some time. Although there is no direct reference to al-Qaeda or the Taliban in the novel, the plot of the novel is based on factual reports at the time that the Muslim fundamentalists who established the Taliban regime in Afghanistan were supported by Pakistan’s security agency, and that al-Qaeda training camps were located in the regions dominated by the Taliban. Furthermore, Modarres-Sadeghi chooses Syria, which later became the scene of great conflicts, as the setting of his story. The ancient city of Damascus provides the author with a suitable backdrop to conjure up historical events and figures from some 800 years earlier, in a way intimating that the making of modern suicide bombers not only has precedence in the region, but also is perhaps rooted and nourished by those events that have been a source of inspiration for some Muslims, as represented by the protagonist and other characters. The choice of Saladin (1137-1193 AD), the famed Islamic commander and Sultan of Egypt and Syria who fought the Crusaders, as a character gives an additional dimension to the novel, especially in terms of his encounter with the protagonist, who turns out to have extremist tendencies similar to those of the aforementioned terrorist groups. Despite being the most notable adversary of the Crusaders, Saladin was historically regarded as a moderate figure, who chose negotiation and compromise as the solution and who signed a ceasefire agreement with Richard the Lionheart. Similarly, the references to the Assassins, the propagators of the Isma’ili sect who opposed Saladin and whom he was unable to defeat, add a further dimension to the story. The Assassins, who have been at times described as the first organized terrorist group in the world, advanced their cause by assassinating their political opponents. In this novel, Modarres-Sadeghi shows the mental process that transforms an ordinary person into a murderous creature, indeed, a horrifying monster.

author

Jaafar Modarres-Sadeghi

Jaafar Modarres-Sadeghi was born in 1954 in Isfahan. He is the critically acclaimed author of several collections of short stories and novels, including On Taraf-e Khiyaban [The Other Side of the Street], Vaqaye'-e Ettefaqiyyeh [Something Happened], Davazdah Dastan [Twelve Stories], Ab-o Khak [The Homeland], Tup-e Shabaneh [The Nightly Gun], Didar dar Halab [Appointment in Allepo], Nakojaabad [Nowhereland], Balon-e Mahta [Mahta’s Balloon], His novel, Gavkhuni (translated into English as The Marsh), was published by Mazda in 1996.

Foreword by M. R. Ghanoonparvar


1. Where better than Aleppo

2. A Hot Shower

3. I’m the Boss Here

4. Safe and Sound

5. The Grand Name

6. The Mausoleum of Saladin

7. Good Afternoon

8. Sooner or Later

9. Three Hours before Departure

10. A Shop Laik Dis

11. Paradise on Earth

12. Departure Gate

Glossary and Notes

About the Author

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