This compelling book tells the story of the last six years of the Syrian conflict through the voices of anti-Assad activistsby Sameer Rahim / July 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices From Syria by Wendy Pearlman (Custom House, £18.99) The Syrian conflict is often seen as being so complicated that it is beyond analysis. But at heart it is a simple story: protestors inspired by the Arab Spring took to the streets against a corrupt dictatorship; when the regime turned violent, so did the rebels, and from there the current disaster spooled. This compelling book tells the story of the last six years through the voices of anti-Assad activists, interviewed in Arabic by academic Wendy Pearlman. Starting with life under Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez, and the “creative chaos” his rule engendered, the narrative takes us through the early days of hope when protests began in 2011, and their subsequent crushing. Many interviewed here—now living outside Syria—still cling to hope. Others have fallen into despair. Sham grimly jokes that someone should kill every last Syrian. “Then we’ll all go to heaven and leave Bashar al-Assad to rule over an empty country.” Amin changes the names of his dead friends in his phone to “martyr.” “So I’d open my contact lists and it was all Martyr, Martyr, Martyr.” Adam reflects that he and other revolutionaries had an “innocent, childlike” interest in opening Pandora’s Box. “We thought we’d get a present, and what we got was all the evil in the world.” Many express bitterness at being abandoned by the world—especially Barack Obama. All the book lacks is Syrians who sided with or fought for the regime. I suspect we will have to wait until the war is over—perhaps years—to hear what they really think.