Dateline – 8 December 2021
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of the author, activist, wife and mother, Diala Arslan Talhouk – a princess in name, and nature.
Diala Arslan is survived by her husband, Ghassan Talhouk, and her two sons – Adel (born 2000) and Omar (born 2005).
She has one brother – Adel Arslan, and two sisters – Ghina Arslan Mezher and Mada Arslan.
From 1974-1989, Diala Arslan studied at Collège Louise Wegmann in Beirut, gaining her Baccalauréat Littérature.
From 1989-1993, she studied at the AUB, graduating with a BA in Political Studies.
Although she grew up in a political environment, and was perhaps expected to follow this path, by chance Diala Arslan entered the world of children’s literature after a book about ants and bees fell into her hands.
And so it was that in 2005, Diala Arslan wrote her first book for children – “The Queen’s Tale”, a story which chronicles the adventures of bees in their hive, staging a coup against the queen who did not treat her subjects well and was dismissed from the government. It was, perhaps, an analogy of Lebanese life.
From this point, she dedicated much of her time and energy to the education of children by encouraging them to read books.
Indeed, Diala Arslan was herself an avid reader, passionate about words and language, and was rarely photographed without a book in her hands.
In her second book, “Diaries of Ants”, Diala Arslan sought to teach children the importance of ants in life, the importance of all insects and the necessity of their existence in nature, and respect for preservation of the natural environment.
Her next four publications focused on the “The Adventures of Aziz” – parables of a young boy who does not hear the words of advice from his family and falls into many dilemmas as a result of his quarrels.
In November 2021, Diala Arslan’s final children’s storybook – “The Troublesome Duo” was published.
For the past three years, the author had been working on the manuscript for her first novel … but it was a book without an ending …
Diala Arslan Talhouk was active in all aspects of literary life – working as the Arabic Coordinator of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2013-2014.
She read stories for children at Dubai Public Libraries, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and BIEL Book Fair in Beirut.
In early 2017, she founded Ossasblog Initiative, providing free online Arabic stories for children.
In June 2017, she joined forces with her husband, Ghassan Talhouk, and began work as Editor in Chief of Addresscope – an app designed to assist with the worldwide challenges of changing address.
In June 2019, Diala Arslan was appointed Literature Writer for Pearson Book in Dubai.
In February 2020, the Emirates International Business Club honored those who have played a role in serving the community, and Diala Arslan Talhouk was among the honorees.
The honorary shield was presented to her by the Consul of Malawi, Ms. Jelena Susana Suleiman, who said about the author:
“Princess Diala Arslan is writing stories for children to light up the path of generations of dreamers, and hold the hand of those who are shrouded in the seeds of their future realization.”
All the while, Diala maintained an interest in politics and a concern for the welfare of her fellow Lebanese. She was an ardent supporter of her mother’s cause of bringing more women to the patriarchal political society.
As a prolific reader, Diala was often asked for her recommendations for books, so in late 2020, she started an instagram page – instagram.com/deebookvault – to share with the world her favourite works of literature. Not content to show just another book cover, Diala would create imaginative photographs – often wearing elaborate costumes, playing the role of a central character in the book.
Her legacy lives on in her literature …
In early December 2021, Diala Arslan experienced high blood pressure, leading to a severe brain haemorrhage.
On 6 December 2021, her mother Hayat Arslan, sent this message:
The miracle was not meant to be – Diala Arslan had fallen into a coma, from which she did not recover.
On 8 December 8, 2021 Hayat Arslan posted this emotional eulogy to her daughter, Diala Arslan Talhouk:
“My daughter Diala does not listen to me. To whom do I complain? It appears that she has decided to leave … I cling on to her and try to convince her to stay or to let me go with her … She rejects both proposals and does not discuss them, even though she is the one who is accustomed to discussion and adopted the language of reason and logic.
Diala, I am addressing you warmly, no I am begging you. Don’t leave … Stay with us … We cannot separate. We need you, O breeze that revived our existence, O ray of light that illuminates our lives … O grace of the Lord of the Worlds, we cling to it … We have no power to be far away …
Your decision cannot be accepted … It is misery itself … You cannot leave … Leaving is a wound and an insult, it is not in your nature, my love. You can’t be far away … Distance is an injustice you don’t accept. You are a balm for my soul. Your absence is a torment that I cannot bear.
I stand in front of your bed calling you and repeating the call in a broken faint voice …
May you respond to me … May you feel my presence … But you remain in a world that is difficult for me to comprehend. Your angelic face is at ease, it is the Creator who reassures you that Adel and Omar are under his care, so do not worry …
As for us, we worry, pray and supplicate: Our Lord, restore the light of our eyes, restore Diala for us. You are the highest, the greatest, the omnipotent.
And yet Diala has gone … “
Dateline – 12 December 2021
Princess Diala Arslan Talhouk was farewelled in a solemn funeral held at the Emir Faisal Arslan Museum in Aley, with the participation of a plethora of family, political, social, official, civil and religious figures.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Emir Adel Arslan thanked the mourners for their attendance, and spoke fondly of his late sister’s many admirable qualities and, after prayer, her body was buried in the Talhouk family cemetery.
Those attending Diala’s funeral included her uncle, the head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, MP Talal Arslan, and her cousin, the advisor to MP Taymour Joumblatt, Houssam Harb.
Also in attendance were Layla Solh, Marwan Khair El-Din, Ramzi Musharrafieh, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elie Ferzli; the representative of the Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Brigadier General Fayez Machmouchi; and the Judicial Police Commander, Brigadier General Maher Al-Halabi.
Walid Joumblatt, representing the Progressive Socialist Party, offered condolences to the family, and was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Nora Joumblatt; his daughter, Dalia Joumblatt; former Minister Ghazi Al-Aridi; and Representative Akram Chehayeb.
Condolences were also offered by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and former MP Marwan Hamadeh and his son Karim Hamadeh.
Thousands of tributes and words of condolence were received from around the world, remembering a gentle woman of great intellect, and generosity.
Her close friend and fellow author Sahar Naja Mahfouz, wrote this tribute:
“Diala … my love, my friend and my companion … Two years ago, when I took this picture of you in Dubai, I did not expect to use it to say that you have become an angel in the sky.
I am crying with great sadness and grief, the pain of losing a human being that will never be compensated.
To our good days together, to all the memories.
To the reader, thinker, speaker – courageous and ambitious.
To the one who made my sojourn more beautiful.
To the one who shared childhood memories with me of Lebanon, we laughed at the idealism of “Abu Melhem”, and reminisced of Marouche sandwiches, meetings at Raouche, and home-made bread during the days of the war.
To “revolution” with manners.
To the dreamer who saw the beauty of the world and overlooked its ugliness.
To the one who blamed me for not yet having read Hoda Barakat’s latest novel.
To the colorful butterfly, the princess “Hen”.
Diala … I miss you so much, and I will miss you more every day.
Not only do I write these posts for you, but I also write them for myself to be patient and to keep your memory around me no matter how my days are.
I promise you, Diala, that I will try to achieve our dreams, even if it is difficult on my own.”
The trailblazing, pioneering activist and humanitarian, May Wahab Bou Hamdan is the cousin of Hayat Arslan.
She wrote this eulogy for Diala:
“A tribute to the beloved Diala …
On Wednesday evening, she appeared crying and sad, waving her black shawl to announce the death of the most beautiful and tender princess, the distinguished children’s story writer Diala Faisal Arslan Talhouk, the princess of the hearts of all those who knew her, the grand-daughter of Emir Majid Arslan, the owner of the authentic Arab house, may God have mercy on him.
A daughter of a good father and a sister of a good brother, you left early, Diala, the humble violet flower with a big heart full of love, honesty and humanity.
How did your cruel heart, O death, conspire to kidnap that girl who radiates intelligence, kindness and beauty like a diamond?
I was the companion of your mother, Hayat Wahab, my cousin – the daughter of my uncle – who spent her life in political and humanitarian work to help people to stand up for their suffering. Your home was a destination for all.
May God have mercy on the face shrouded with beauty, if women were like the ones we lost, women would be preferred over men.
May God be patient with us and your bereaved mother, your family and your acquaintances, O jewel inlaid in the crown of humanity.
May God rest our princess Diala Arslan and by his mercy, may she dwell in paradise.”
Ghada El Murr, the writer and poet, remembered her friend with these touching words:
“You are a sleeping princess …
As in the fairy tales of the princesses in books and stories, you slept … And we waited for the kiss of life from a prince who never came.
Wake up … may the Lord raise you up …
The night brought down its black curtain, it was pitch dark. The tragedy grew claws and a silence that resembled a moan.
Tomorrow … the sun rises, I wish it wouldn’t. The affliction is great and the pain is unbearable.
For your departure, Princess Diala, the voice of grief is mute.
Let us paint the innocence of your eyes on the sunset every day.
To mourn your absence with awe and reverence, in the corridors of absence and the cruelty of leaving, when the day turns black.
In a temple, grief suffocates with tears from those who love you, behind a transparent curtain of fragrant incense and the sound of hymns of the last farewell ceremony.
You packed your suitcases toward heaven … early.
In your heart you hid all the faces of the ones you loved. Silently, the eyelids closed on the two most beautiful blue beads …
On a pure soul, on the soul of a naughty child whose laughter was painted with joy and love on the walls of the hearts of those who knew her.
Heedlessly and in a sad and bitter moment, like a white lie, you closed the door on life and left.
An Arslanian princess of reckoning and descent. You were educated and refined among us, and now you are a pure angel in the highest.
We cried for your shocking departure, and in the noise of our reverence, our prayers, and our tears, we walked towards a wonderful and distant place …
There behind the clouds and the dreams, in children’s books, we dwelt.
The hand of death was harsh, when it stretched out and snatched you away.
Outside there are roars and groans, as if the sky celebrates you with thunder and lightning, and with ululations and tears it celebrates you.
A sleeping princess … you won’t wake up.
Sleep, O Princess Diala, in slumber and tranquility, for today you have flown into the brightness of the skies, and the Lord has crowned you as an angel in the heavens.
I wish the sun of your departure would be in the hearts of those who miss you and those who cry, tomorrow you will be ashamed of your mother’s pain and tears…
It is extinguished and does not return, and it rises, and by a miracle … you wake up.”
Samir Makarem, founder and curator of Sami Makarem Cultural Centre in Aytat, remembered Diala Arslan Talhouk:
Diala Arslan was much more than a writer – she was a writer with a conscience and a concern for humanity.
Although she lived and worked in Dubai for many years, her heart was always with her homeland.
This excerpt from an article published in Druze Worldwide magazine in 2015 gives an insight into her deep thinking:
“It wasn’t easy for me to decide to write children’s stories, these stories will be read by innocent children with a young mind that absorbs ideas and is influenced by them.
At the same time, it was this fact that encouraged me to enter this field.
I was stuck between wanting to write and preparing for it, and the dread of that step.
The subject is sensitive and delicate, especially since they did not inherit from our generation a homeland, but sectarian farms. What country will they inherit and how will they rise to it?
Having forgotten the possibility of reforming the logic of adults that has been crooked by circumstances, I decided to go to the children, publicly, instilling in them some of the values I hope they will preserve – mercy to Lebanon, values forgotten by adults, such as democracy, compliance with the law, rejection of injustice and tact in speech.
In “The Queen’s Story”, it was queen who was jealous of the workers and was superior to them, so they staged a coup against her and replaced her with another.
With bitterness, I realized that forty years of my life had passed, and I am still waiting to live in Lebanon, the Lebanon of light and glory, the Lebanon of openness and development, the Lebanon of Fairuz, Gibran and Naimy …
Lebanon is my family and my grandparents who have always sung about it and felt nostalgia for its blessed days.
And I’m still waiting… And Lebanon is still going backwards, not to the days of solitude and affluence, but to the dark, compelling, stifling days.
There are those who forget, and there are those who have left, and there are those who have become impoverished and are waiting for a few dollars or lira to come to them every four years … a bribe from a political candidate, leader or militia.
But it entrenches corruption and nepotism and gives its donor the power to seize tens of millions in return at the expense of the poor!
Immigration must be stopped … What is required is to overcome despair… It is required to adhere to Lebanon…
I detailed the disease that we complain of and started treating it within my stories in a soft and smooth way to enter the heart and mind of children at the same time.
I am ashamed of a Lebanon where teachers, intellectuals and great artists are marginalized.
My message is that pride is in knowledge.
I am ashamed of the Lebanese who surrender to an unjust reality and do not move a finger. So I made in the suggestions from the workers’ revolution against the Queen a message to the children not to accept injustice or bow before it.
Justice, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, is manifested when political action seeks “to serve the greater public interest without exception.”
I’m ashamed of the people who teach their children sectarianism and disdain.
I tried to instill in them a love of justice, independence and self-confidence. It also drew their attention to the fact that religion is for God and the homeland is for all.
Religion is essential to an individual’s relationship with his Creator. Religion elevates us and makes us tolerant.
As for sectarianism, it is abhorrent, diving and degrading people.
Do you think that tomorrow’s generation will save Lebanon from disintegration? Do they rise up? What helps them do that?
I encourage my readers to keep pace with the times and to benefit from everything that is new and useful in the world be it from the east or the west.
Evolution comes only from science.
I warn them that science shows us truth from falsehood, right from wrong. And that we can take advantage of inventions for the benefit of our societies that are fed up with their narrow-mindedness.
Do I see Lebanon healthy and purified from the politicians who are eating away at its entity?
In an indirect way, in my meetings with the children, I would tell them that they must save Lebanon from disintegration and loss.
Let every person take his role in life, to know his size … this is how society is straightened. Just as each worker in the beehive knows her rights and duties, do not infringe on the work of others, but comply with the law of the cell, that’s when it produces honey…
If they fail or allow chaos to ensue, there would be no cleanliness or order and it would not be able to produce honey.
I have great hope for the children of Lebanon, so I turned my thoughts to them, with a glimmer of hope.
Small ideas … High expectations … I can publish it to as many readers as possible.