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on 27 September 2015
Quite an interesting read. The opening thirty pages or so are a little bit unusual in style, sort of lyrical and poetic which is strange when set against the context of something brutal. Maybe it's an issue with the translation but quite often it's written in the present tense, "I go" "I see" which makes it feel a bit timeless and not connected to a particular moment.

The main tension in the book comes through her account of a brutal crackdown against any show of public dissent by the state, Samar being an Alawitee is unlikely to be killed her conscious however will not allow her to stay silent though about what she's seeing, this leads to her being branded a traitor and a criminal by her own village and people.

Certain parts were slightly unclear, when she heads towards demonstrations, is she going as a protester or as a journalist? She will sometimes set her agenda out as a journalist collecting evidence of human rights abuses and torture, but often we find her chanting and joining in with the protesters. Within the first 90 pages or so she attends several protests which are broken up violently, these early pages have a feeling of almost recklessness at times, as though she didn't realize how much danger she was in. As things move on we find changing addresses several times, having her internet cut and often afraid to leave the house, her self confidence gone. Her relationship with her daughter is also a fiery one and creates conflict, her desire to be a good mother and protect her daughter, and her need to speak out over what's she witnesses puts her in an impossible dilemma.

One slightly bizarre detail includes her carrying a knife around for protection which was odd, if a group of security personnel did decide to arrest her then I'm pretty sure a group of killers wouldn't be afraid of a knife.

Overall the level of journalism during the interviews and some of her first hand reporting is really powerful. If you're looking for a good first hand account of the early stages of the Syrian uprising with a little personal touch, I recommend buying this book.
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on 15 December 2012
Samar Yazbek's A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution is the book that elicits strong feelings. For me, those were the feelings of disbelief that fellow human beings can inflict such pain upon each other but also the feelings of hope in the human spirit and its resilience.

Yazbek's book documents the first 100 days of the Syrian Revolution, which began with demonstrations in March 2011. As the conflict, which initially followed a `traditional Arab Spring scenario' with demands for freedoms and cessation of corruption, escalated into a civil war along sectarian lines, Yazbek analyses how that sectarianism was fostered. She also explores the beginnings of the Syrian refugee problem. A relatively small number of refugees in the period, documented by Yazbek, turned into hundreds of thousands of refugees and a few millions of internally displaced persons. The book captures the period when the exodus began.

Yazbek, through hundreds of interviews conducted with opposition leaders, reconstructs the events in Dar'a (in the southwest, on the border with Jordan) and Baniyas (in the northwest, on the Mediterranean coast), the two towns where some of the worst atrocities by the Syrian regime were committed. Yazbek also explores the roles of the Syrian army, the security services, and the shabiha (civilian sectarian militia) in the revolution.

Yazbek provides a perspective on the conflict that should not be taken for granted. She is an Alawi, of the same ethnic group as the president, but was shunned by her community for her oppositional beliefs. She is a woman and a mother in the revolution that we associate with pictures of young men in their 20s. She is also an intellectual, a prominent public figure in Syria before the revolution, who was personally targeted and vilified by the regime through the state-controlled media.

Finally, apart from its powerful content, it is a beautifully written book. Yazbek's diary-style narration, occasionally slipping into an artistic stream of consciousness, conveys exactly what a good memoir should: how she felt at a specific moment in history. This makes her story more personal and relatable, as we follow the evolution not only of the tragic events in Syria but also of the protagonist's feelings about the conflict, her identity, and her country. Max Weiss should be thanked for a remarkable English translation.

The book will be invaluable to those studying Middle Eastern history and politics, concerned about human rights and humanitarian conflicts, or interested in learning more about the Syrian Revolution in the broader context of the Arab Spring.
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on 30 July 2013
Here is evidence of the human capacity to work from the heart, with integrity in the most brutal and repressive of circumstances. Whatever the number of stars available to rate this book, I would give them all; reason being that the text goes beyond a literary endeavor. Samar Yazbek has managed to gather and disseminate on a global scale, personal accounts of the first 100 days of the Syrian Revolution, during a media blackout. This includes her own diaries as well as those of many other people whose experiences would otherwise be unknown, and are likely beyond comprehension of most readers of this work.
It was with sadness, and gratitude to the author that I read her accounts of Syria at this time, for she provided an insight to the struggle of many people whom will now have been killed, often without acknowledgement of their lives and deaths. They should not have been silenced and they should not be forgotten.
This book has been written and published with an urgency that anyone who worries about the few typos is probably very distanced from. The direct and selfless document about a current struggle for freedom, and the pitting of communities against each other is humbling. I do not see it as something to be entertained by. This is real, it is still happening. People are still being tortured, killed, manipulated, and displaced in their thousands.
The writer has done and is doing what she can, which is not enough. Who can do enough in such circumstances? Many of the people whom she references have given everything, it was not enough.
The least we can do is try to understand, and take influence from those who seek and speak the truth, despite terrifying pressures to do the opposite.
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on 21 January 2014
A difficult book in some ways but this is a first hand account of being caught in the civil war in Syria in 2011. The inhumanity of the regime torturing and killing its own young people without remorse is relentlessly portrayed and the evil of the government which tries to make this a sectarian war against radical Islam. It wasn't for most at the beginning but you can see it, in this account becoming so, because of the continuous killing and propaganda and the fact the moderates get murdered first. Samar Yazbek is partly protected because she is from a powerful Alawite family, but her determination to bear witness to what is happening means that she is forced after a few months to flee with her daughter.
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on 10 April 2016
This book is informative and thought provoking with regard to what started the troubles in Syria and what was behind it. I found it quite intense, it made me feel sad for the Syrian people and angry at the reasons why they are being treated so badly. Samar Yazbek speaks from the heart and from the heart of what is going on. She is clearly passionate about her country and very brave. Very glad that I read it though it was heavy going at times.
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on 28 January 2013
The book is written about a really interesting topic, and Yazbek is able to provide a realistic insight into what life is like in the middle of the Syrian revolution, which offers a completely different perspective from what we are presented with on the news. However, the phrasing is often really odd and often it doesn't make complete sense which spoilt it somewhat. I'm sure this is not the fault of Yazbek but comes down to the translation into English.
Overall, the content I read was definitely interesting but the awkward phrasings made it quite difficult to get caught up in.
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