Victoria Woollard

The Private Secretary to Her Majesty The Queen

Buckingham Palace

London SW1A 1AA

Great Britain


An open letter to Her Majesty The Queen

10th October 2011


As one of Her Majesty’s subjects and a member of the World Association of Psychoanalysis, I wish to draw the attention of Her Majesty to the plight of psychoanalyst Rafah Nached.

On the 10th September 2011, whilst on her way to Paris where her daughter was about to give birth, Mrs. Nached was abducted at Damascus airport by Syrian security services and charged with “activities susceptible of destabilizing the nation” for which she is now imprisoned. She is 66 and has a heart condition that requires constant medical attention. Her husband confirms that her health is deteriorating in prison.

After training in France as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, Rafah Nached returned to her native country to work in a hospice with the aim of treating the patients “not like a number but as a person whose complaint must be listened to”. She went on to found the Damascus School of Psychoanalysis in 2000 to teach others how to treat mental suffering through the particular approach to speech taught by Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Her aim was to introduce an alternative approach to treating mental illness than an excessive use of medication, electric shock therapy or behavioural methods. She is the first woman psychoanalyst to practise in Syria.

Recently, Rafah Nached turned her therapeutic work towards those suffering from the current events afflicting the Syrian people by providing them with support groups in which they could find a place to speak about their fears rather than expressing their emotions by physical violence. This invitation was open to all independent of religious or political adherence. Following the publication of an interview that unfortunately quoted Rafah Nached by name, the Syrian authorities proceeded to silence her, and in so doing, is silencing the suffering of the Syrian people too, which can only amount to more violence. Rafah Nached has thus become a symbol of the freedom of speech of the Syrian people.

Informed of Rafah Nached’s plight, Jacques-Alain Miller, former Delegate General of the World Association of Psychoanalysis, took action to alert the world of this danger and started a campaign with a petition for her release asking everyone to send an electronic mail to: Another can be found on Thousands of people have signed the petitions, many having important functions in different countries. Numerous professional bodies and institutions at a national and international level have also issued statements of concern and informed their members of the campaign.

Mme. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has responded by writing an open letter calling for Rafah Nached’s release and giving her support to Mrs Nached’s husband, Fayssal Abdellah, professor of History at the University of Damascus. She writes “It seems unthinkable that this clinician devoted to therapeutics and study be considered a threat to public order, to the security of the State”. She goes on to describe Rafah Nached as “a woman who is free and accomplished, who is known internationally, and whose life and work honours Syria, Syrian and Arabic women, and all women”.

At the Assembly of the European Parliament of 29th September 2011, vice-president, Mr. Libor Rouček, made a declaration calling on the Syrian authorities for Rafah Nached’s release.

My colleagues in London, members of the London Society of the New Lacanian School, chaired by Dr Roger Litten, who is also a member of the British Psychological Society, have been working hard to inform the British of this matter and to solicit their support via an Internet “blog” in English ( Whilst it is understandable that, for historical reasons, France has a closer relation to Syria than other countries, this has not prevented individual and professional bodies all over the world from responding. It has thus come as a great surprise and disappointment to encounter the relative indifference of a number of British professional bodies claiming to represent practitioners of psychotherapeutic treatments, one of which being the British Psychological Society (BPS), which was granted a Royal Charter in 1965. An electronic mail sent to the president of the BPS requesting his help was initially ignored by the Society. A second prompting produced the following response: “Is it not within the Society’s Charter, Statutes & Rules to support such campaigns or become involved with petitions of this kind.”

When the inventor of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, fled his country to escape persecution from the Nazis, he found shelter in Great Britain. Shortly after victory had been declared by the Allies, Jacques Lacan, the great French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, came to Britain to meet the British psychiatrists and psychoanalysts who, during the war, had taken their bearings from Freud’s writings on group psychology and invented a remarkably effective means of using group work to treat soldiers mentally ravaged by modern warfare, much like Rafah Nached had been doing in Syria up until her imprisonment. Dr. Lacan recounts his experience in his text “British Psychiatry and the War”, noting that it was evident to him that the mainspring of the British victory was “moral”. The British had displayed courage. Bearing in mind Rafah Nached’s work to help her compatriots find a way to speak, I cannot but help make reference to the courage of His Majesty, King George the VI, to speak out against the dark forces that threatened his people, which the film “The King’s Speech” recently brought to the world’s attention.

As a British subject and a member of the World Association of Psychoanalysis, I have taken it upon myself to inform Her Majesty of this invocation of the Royal Charter as a reason not to speak out against tyranny. The freedom of speech: Honi soit qui mal y pense; Shame on him who thinks this evil.

I have the honour to remain, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant,

Victoria Woollard


Clinical Psychologist

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