The crisis in Syria is the current humanitarian tragedy that has stolen headlines in the news. Although the conflict has been ongoing for the past few years, it has recently gained new steam in the news after the fall of Aleppo. Naturally, people want to know more, but there’s so much information it’s hard to know where to start. These books present a very good overview from start to finish and are a great beginning point for anyone.
1. The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria by Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek is a journalist and a native of Syria. As a result, The Crossing is not just a journalistic account of the country’s descent into chaos. Because of Yazbek’s connection to the country, the book takes on a much more personal note. Yazbek takes the reader on a journey of the history of the conflict, starting with the protests in 2011 to the current war in Syria. Along the way, Yazbek introduces us to individual stories of perseverance and humanity. These types of accounts are not always present in the accounts of the war. The situation in Syria is messy and complicated, and this book does a great job of conveying that authentic chaos.
2. The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine Di Giovanni
Janine Di Giovanni gives us another account of the destruction wrought by the conflict, this time specifically in Aleppo. Giovanni examines the battle for Aleppo through the eyes of ordinary Syrians caught in the crossfires. Since the book is set during the early part of the battle of Aleppo, it is able to provide us with a sincere snapshot from that moment in time.
3. My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution by Diana Darke
In order to truly understand just how this conflict came about, it behooves readers to understand Syria prior to the war. Diana Darke gives a great depiction of pre-war Syria with My House in Damascus. By going into detail about the makeup of the various groups involved with Syria, we are given a comprehensive view of the factions in Syrian politics.
4. A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek
Of course, there’s no better way to understand the beginning of the chaos in Syria than by starting at the initial relatively peaceful protests. Fortunately for us, Samar Yazbek was around to chronicle the experience of protesting against the Assad regime. Yazbek’s personal experience dealing with government persecution presents a harrowing picture. The author’s own personal views and opinions represented in the book are what eventually forced her to leave Syria with her family. In addition to her own story, she also includes the testimony of other protesters in the early days of the revolution.
5. Syrian Dust: Reporting From the Heart of the War by Francesca Borri
Francesca Borri is one of the few western journalists based in Damascus that chose to remain in Syria once war broke out. In doing so, Borri came face to face with the horrors many everyday Syrians dealt with. As with all other books on this list, you will no doubt be horrified by many of the details Borri provides regarding the atrocities of war.
6. Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami
Yet another examination of the conflict beginning with calls for the end of the Assad regime and lasting up to the refugee crisis. This time, the authors take an in depth look at the roles activism, ISIS, regional politics, and Islamism played in the Syrian conflict. By taking an analytical approach to these factors, we are able to better appreciate the complexity and nuance of the situation. If you take anything away from this book, it is that Syria is a mess at this point. There isn’t any one simplistic solution that’s going to end it and we need to start recognizing that.
7. The Wisdom of Syria’s Waiting Game: Foreign Policy Under the Assads by Bente Scheller
Written by a long time diplomat and Syria analyst, this book covers the politics of the Assad family and the ways they contributed to the protests. The author argues that once Bashar Assad took over the government shifted towards becoming a regime focused on self preservation. This lead to a regime that relied too heavily on the use of violence to maintain power. Scheller’s delivery of a comprehensive guide to Syrian policy is incredibly informative and a great read for those interested in the country’s policy.
8. The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa al-Sabouni
For the most part, the accounts of the conflict in Syria that we receive are from journalists and are second hand accounts. The Battle For Home provides us with a first hand, personal account of the conflict from a Syrian architect. The author is able to give us some unique perspective on how the destruction of the surrounding environment reflects the destruction of society.
9. Syria: A Revolution from Above by Raymond A. Hinnebusch
This book looks at how the previous regime shaped Syria. Syria: A Revolution is unique to this list in that it is the only book that examines Syrian history prior to the conflict. By examining the rule of Hafez Assad, we are able to look at what may have been underlying causes of the revolution.
The conflict in Syria is incredibly complex and even this list of books only covers some of the factors that lead to it. There’s a lot more that can be read in ongoing news reports. The only way society can prevent future tragedies like the situation in Syria is to learn all we can about the causes of conflict. Reading the books on this list is at least a start.
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Featured image via New York Times