Bouthaina Shaaban

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Bouthaina Shaaban
بثينة شعبان
1st Minister of Expatriates
In office
2002 – 30 July 2008
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Joseph Sweid
Political and Media Adviser to the Presidency
In office
2008 – Incumbent
Personal details
Born 1953
Homs, Syria
Political party Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party

Bouthaina Shaaban (Arabic: بثينة شعبان‎‎) (born 1953) is a Syrian politician and is currently the political and media adviser to the President of Syria. Shaaban served as the first Minister of Expatriates for the Syrian Arab Republic, between 2003 and 2008,[1] and has been described as the Syrian government's face to the outside world.[2]

Life and education

Born in Homs and a member of the Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party since the age of 16, she was educated in Britain and obtained her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Warwick.[3] She is married with two daughters and a son.[1]


Shaaban worked first as an interpreter for the Syrian presidents Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar al-Assad.[2] Under Hafez she became an "adviser to the Foreign Ministry,"[2] and in 2003 she was named Minister of Expatriates, "a new post created to try to lure wealthy Syrian expatriates abroad — or at least their resources — back home."[2] In 2008 she was appointed political and media adviser to president Bashar al-Assad. Between 1985 and 2003 she was also the professor of Romantic poetry at the English department of Damascus University.[1]

Shaaban was particularly visible in English-speaking media after the Valentine's Day 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, when she did several television interviews and wrote several oped pieces attacking the United Nations probe into Syrian involvement in the murder and insisted that Israel and the United States were responsible for Hariri's murder.[4]

In August 2011, the US sanctioned Shaaban together with other Syrian officials "in response to the Syrian government's crackdown against anti-government protesters".[5]

She is the author of "Both Right and Left Handed: Arab Women Talk About Their Lives" (1988). A book composed mostly of interviews with Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Algerian women, Shaaban invites them to talk openly about their lives and the roles of women in their societies, how they feel they've changed through different times of war and crisis, and what they think the future holds for Arab women.

Connections to Syrian leadership

Shaaban's rise within the Syrian government is due to her close friendship with Bushra Al-Assad. Sometime in the late 1980s, Shaaban also introduced Bushra to her future husband Assef Shawkat.[6]


In 2005 Shaaban was presented with "the Most Distinguished Woman in a Governmental Position" award by the Arab League.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Official Website, Bouthaia Shaaban.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Wright, 2008, p.250.
  3. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. Wright, 2008, p.252.
  5. Robert Fisk interview with Shaaban the Independent, October 2011