Harrowing reporting from the front lines of the civil war in Syria.
As Beirut-based freelance journalist Abouzeid, who has won the George Polk Award, writes in her opening pages, the Syrian government declared her an enemy and a spy fairly early in the popular uprising, forcing her not just to enter the country illegally, but also to focus on the opposition. That the book does not give equivalency, false or otherwise, to the government’s side of the story does not diminish its objectivity or value. The author brings us the stories of people who, though capable of speaking for themselves, are not often heard from and might as well be voiceless insofar as audiences outside the country are concerned. By Abouzeid’s account, all is chaos and ruin: so many people have died in the civil war in Syria that the U.N. long ago gave up trying to count them. The author is a reliable guide to the ethnic and religious intricacies of the struggle; one of the figures she interviews, while no friend of the regime, is an Alawite, like the ruling family, and therefore is reckoned to be one of them. That does not make him a friend of the opposition, not necessarily. Just so, some of the people Abouzeid profiles are members of militias allied with the Islamic State group and al-Qaida; many of the players involved answer in the affirmative to the question, “do you want the Quran to be the constitution in a future state?” Says one thoughtful rebel who figures prominently in the account, “We want an Islamic state, too, but only after we’ve liberated Syria and start liberating Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan can we establish a caliphate.” Readers without familiarity with the many strains of opposition to the Assad regime are likely to emerge from this book a touch less confused—though without much cause for hope, either.
An eye-opening account of those who “played a pivotal role in the revolution’s trajectory.”