Syria’s forgotten revolutionaries
Interview with Leila al-Shami
In 2011 the Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa. Millions of people rose up against dictatorships across the region, toppling governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, with the Libyan regime also falling following Western intervention. Among the countries in which revolution seemed to be on the cards was of course Syria. But, five years later, the country is in turmoil, with President Bashar Al-Assad clinging to the power he has left with the backing of the
military might of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and others. Facing them are reactionary Islamist forces such as Islamic State/Daesh and Jabhat Al-Nusra. The situation looks increasingly hopeless, and it is generally portrayed in the media as a battle between equally horrific forces, with ordinary people reduced to spectators desperately attempting to avoid barrel bombs or making terrifying journeys out of the country as refugees.
But there is a side to the story that is often overlooked – that of the continued resilience and self-organisation of Syrians resisting both the regime and groups like ISIS. This is the subject of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab, a comprehensive account of Syria’s recent history told often through the stories of people on the ground.