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December 4, 1931 ~ June 22, 2023 (age 91) 91 Years Old
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Halim Barakat –writer, scholar, and activist for social justice and equality in the Arab world and beyond-- passed away peacefully at the age of 92 on Thursday, June 22, 2023 in Bethesda Maryland. Devoted husband of the late Hayat Barakat for 58 years, he will rest next to her at the Gates of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. A childless couple, Halim and Hayat became surrogate mother and father to the children of their siblings from the Barakat, Cassis, and Doumani families. These children --now adults with many children of their own who were equally loved by Halim and Hayat as surrogate grandparents-- were deeply influenced by Halim and Hayat’s love of life, moral integrity, generosity, and sense of responsibility to leave the world a better place than the one they inherited.
Halim Barakat was born in the Syrian village of Kafroun on December 4, 1931. He was raised and educated in Beirut, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1966. He worked as a professor at the American University of Beirut, Harvard University, and University of Texas before settling in at Georgetown University, where he taught for 27 years. His father, Esber, died young, leaving behind Halim’s mother, Maryam Hilu Barakat and Halim’s two younger siblings: Mounifa (1933-2020), and Tanious (1936-2022). Maryam moved the family to Beirut in 1943, where she was forced to send them to orphanages while she scratched a living. The family was later re-united and Halim deeply treasured the sacrifices of his mother who, along with the people and landscape of Kafroun, became a constant source of inspiration for his writings. Halim’s routine of reading newspapers over morning coffee followed by hours of writing, never wavered. His love of swimming in the open sea inspired poetic prose, and his regular walks along hills and river banks yielded beautiful stones and handsome drift wood. His infectious laugh, witty comments, and charismatic dabkeh dancing lit up many evening gatherings. Several decades of slides and pictures of people and nature that he lovingly photographed constitute --along with his books, essays, and letters-- a treasured archive. Most of all, his humbleness, principled stances, and optimism, communicated a beautiful sense of purpose to all those who had the fortune to know him. We miss him terribly and celebrate the joyful pursuit of life he inspired in us.