Three Syrians who have faced down their country’s police state tell their respective first-person stories.
Editor Braver (Arts and Sciences/Roger Williams Univ.; November 22, 1963: A Novel, 2008, etc.), along with his student Deveuve, assembles a singular account of the cataclysmic changes that have gripped Syria over the last 50 years through the accounts of three dissidents of different generations who have challenged the state’s “culture of fear”—with awful consequences for themselves and their families. The first is Naila Al-Atrash, a theater director who came of age in the late 1960s and learned to stage political theater through her early work with the Communist Party, which sent her to study in Sofia, Bulgaria. The granddaughter of a leader of the 1925 Syrian revolution for independence against French control, Al-Atrash grew up to hate oppression; she is also the niece of one of the founders of the Ba’ath Party, when, unlike today, it “represented itself as a defender of the oppressed, and a defender of justice.” Al-Atrash provides good historical background to the more recent upheavals, and she has used her theater work to inspire critical thinking and thereby change, despite police harassment. The second narrator, Radwan Ziadeh, who was born in 1976, grew up in the wake of the government’s increasing crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood—e.g., Hafez al-Assad’s siege of Hama in 1982, resulting in the massacre of a reported 40,000 civilians. The death of al-Assad and his son Bashar’s initial power grab in 2000 coincided with Ziadeh’s university years and writing for al-Hayat as well as repeated detentions and arrests. In 2007, he and his family fled the country. The youngest voice, Sana Mustafa, was inspired by her courageous father to join the Arab Spring demonstrations; along with her sister, she was repeatedly arrested and interrogated. While she sought asylum in the U.S., her father is still in mysterious detention limbo—or, possibly, dead by torture.
Compelling narratives that reveal a grave disillusionment with the world’s responses to the Syrian crisis.