A prominent Syrian actress who became even more well-known as a voice of opposition to Bashar al-Assad has died in exile in Paris at age 49. A colleague tells the New York Times that Mai Skaf had a heart attack, though her cousin, author Dima Wannous, cites "mysterious circumstances," per al Arabiya. The latter's headline refers to Skaf as a "Syrian scream of hope." Skaf first joined the opposition while living in Syria in 2011 and had been "a constant thorn in the side" of Assad ever since, as Newsweek puts it. She served time in jail, regularly endured harassment, and left the nation for good amid death threats in 2013. She continued her anti-Assad work from abroad.
"I will not lose hope," she posted to Facebook two days before her death. In a TV interview, she once recounted being detained in Syria in 2013 and telling her interrogator why she had gotten involved with the opposition. “My wish is that my son will not be led by the son of Bashar al-Assad!” she said. Skaf had been a familiar face in Syria as a TV and film actress, with her role in the 1993 movie Echoes of Slides one of her biggest. She is survived by her son, who followed her into exile. (Read more Syria stories.)