No turning back Life, loss, and hope in wartime Syria

Rania Abouzeid

Book - 2018

"This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country. Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted vide...os of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two named Mohammad, secretly radicalized and newly released from prison, saw a darker opportunity in the unrest. When violence broke out in Homs, a poet named Abu Azzam became an unlikely commander in a Free Syrian Army militia. The regime's brutal response disrupted a family in Idlib province, where a nine-year-old girl opened the door to a military raid that caused her father to flee. As the bombings increased and roads grew more dangerous, these people's lives intertwined in unexpected ways. Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad's prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and organizations manipulated the rebels, and to the highest levels of Islamic militancy and the formation of ISIS. Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century's greatest humanitarian disasters."--Jacket.

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Subjects
Genres
Personal narratives
Published
New York : W.W. Norton & Company [2018]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxi, 378 pages : map ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 355-363) and index.
ISBN
9780393609493
0393609499
9780393356786
Main Author
Rania Abouzeid (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* By the end of 2017, estimates of deaths from the ongoing civil war in Syria ranged as high as 500,000. The conflict has drawn in, to varying degrees, the U.S., Iran, Russia, Lebanon, Turkey, and thousands of religiously motivated volunteers. Abouzeid, an award-winning journalist based in Lebanon, has provided a masterful, intense, and often personalized account of this seemingly endless conflict. Early on, the Syrian government branded Abouzeid as a spy, so much of her reporting has been clandestine, and it is necessarily focused upon the rebel side and rebel-held areas. Still, she strives for fairness and honesty. Some rebel partisans see a democratic, pluralistic future for Syria. Others speak in frighteningly narrow religious terms and long for a caliphate that includes the "liberated" surrounding states. The most eloquent and heartrending portions of Abouzeid's narrative concern civilians who are embroiled in the carnage directly and simply long for its end. This isn't a hopeful story, and the "solution" may come only through the exhaustion of both sides. This account could have benefited from a presentation of views from the government side, but Abouzeid's altogether intimate, revealing, and moving accomplishment is essential to any attempt to understand this tragedy. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

For her in-depth coverage of the Middle East, Beirut-based Abouzeid has earned numerous honors, from the George Polk Award to the UK's Frontline Club Print Award to the European Commission's Anna Lindh Journalist Foundation Award. Here she gives a history of the war that has shattered Syria, moving from the fiercely crushed demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship in 2011 through the rise of numerous factions, including the Islamic State, to the rubble, the multitudinous refugees, and the fractured state left behind by the fighting. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In her debut book, Polk Award-winning journalist Abouzeid weaves narratives of very different individuals, along with their families and loved ones, involved in the Syrian civil war. Through the eyes of activists, instigators, victims, helpless bystanders, refugees, and ruthless killers, readers witness as Syria dissolves into a lawless territory with three main factions and their own competing subgroups: the dictatorship, the rebels fighting for democracy, and the Islamic extremists. As the war heated up, death was so commonplace that people became dehumanized, with casualties only known as the day's number. Abouzeid pens personal narratives as great family epics during a period of change, sorrow, and upheaval. Suleiman, a well-off young man, demonstrates the power of social media by posting protests online. Mohammad, a family man, shows how and why he turned to Islamic extremism. Ruah, a young girl, ends up a refugee in Turkey, alive, but still mentally in Syria. Abu Azzam, a poet, emerges as a leader in the Free Syrian Army. VERDICT A brilliant, detailed work on a devastating topic. For readers interested in narrative nonfiction, the Syrian war, the Middle East, and personal accounts. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/17.]—Heidi Uphoff, Sandia National Laboratories, NM Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Foreign correspondent Abouzeid spins finely detailed and informed narratives of how life in Bashar al-Assad's Syria descended into street protests and the bloody ongoing chaos of the "civilian revolution." Abouzeid explores the revolt, primarily through the stories of young men who take on the regime, including Suleiman, a wealthy middle manager turned activist; Mohammad, a father imprisoned for suspected Islamist ties and subjected to grisly tortures; and the pseudonymous Abu Azzam, a literature student turned rebel fighter. She also conveys the plight of noncombatants, such as one young girl, Ruha, and her family, who escape to Turkey to become "business-class refugees," out of immediate danger but enduring the hardships of a foreign country while trying to aid those in their hometown across the border. The author skillfully sets forth the complex political and military rivalries between those supporting and opposing the regime, discussing their backers from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the foreign and homegrown fighters who became ISIS. In notes at the beginning and end, Abouzeid details her intense and perilous reporting process. She was banned from the country, she explains, soon after protests began, but nevertheless spent roughly three weeks a month clandestinely entering Syria for the next several years. Her grueling reportage is a formidable accomplishment. (Mar.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Chronicles the tragedy of the Syrian War through the stories of four young people, including a creator of online video protests, a father who hides his radical beliefs, an unlikely poet commander in a Free Syrian Army militia, and a child whose father was forced to flee.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country. Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted videos of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two named Mohammad, secretly radicalized and newly released from prison, saw a darker opportunity in the unrest. When violence broke out in Homs, a poet named Abu Azzam became an unlikely commander in a Free Syrian Army militia. The regime's brutal response disrupted a family in Idlib province, where a nine-year-old girl opened the door to a military raid that caused her father to flee. As the bombings increased and roads grew more dangerous,these people's lives intertwined in unexpected ways. Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad's prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and organizations manipulated the rebels, and to the highest levels of Islamic militancy and the formation of ISIS. Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century's greatest humanitarian disasters.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An award-winning journalist chronicles the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people, including a creator of online video protests, a father who hides his radical beliefs, an unlikely poet commander in a Free Syrian Army militia and a child who opened her family's door to a military raid.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Prize-winning journalist Abouzeid spent six years investigating and traveling through Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Washington, and Europe in order to tell the tragic tale of how a country “unraveled one person at a time.” Blacklisted, branded a spy, and banned from entering Syria, she was forced to focus on the rebel side, becoming, at any given time, fixer, translator, transcriber, logistician, security person, researcher and fact-checker. She presents information about certain individuals, their motivations, worldviews, and actions to help readers understand them and thereby come to their own conclusions, rather than judge. With half of Syria’s population of 23 million now displaced, some estimates put the death toll at well over 500,000 people. Annotation ©2018 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 5

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