Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising

Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising

by Stephen Starr
     
 

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In January of 2011, President Bashar al-Assad officially declared Syrian society stable and the government immune to revolt. In the months that followed, and as regimes fell in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of ordinary Syrians took to the streets calling for an end to Assad's regime. Many have been killed by the bullets of the president's army.

In Revolt in

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Overview

In January of 2011, President Bashar al-Assad officially declared Syrian society stable and the government immune to revolt. In the months that followed, and as regimes fell in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of ordinary Syrians took to the streets calling for an end to Assad's regime. Many have been killed by the bullets of the president's army.

In Revolt in Syria, Stephen Starr delves deep into the lives of those affected by the Syrian state over the past five decades. Interviewing people from all levels of society, he gathers and interprets the varied views and beliefs that show why Syria, with its numerous sects and religious diversity, has been so prone to violence and civil instability. Gaining unique access to a country largely cut off from the international media, Starr delivers compelling firsthand testimony from those who have suffered and from those who benefited most from the regime. Revolt in Syria reveals why many Syrians wanted Assad's government to stay intact as an alternative to endless civil war. It measures the long-standing gap between the state apparatus and its people and explains what led Syria's youth to finally stand up and call decisively for freedom. Starr also outlines the positions of the country's minorities and describes why many Syrians believe enforced regime change will only lead to region-wide conflict.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Living in Syria for nearly five years has given freelance Irish journalist Starr a unique perspective on the current unrest. His fluent Arabic, ordinary routine, and innate caution enabled him to observe and listen to the people's voices, learning how Syria's "complex mix of religions, cultures, and ideals," embedded corruption, and vast wealth disparity have fueled instability. Wealthy Damascenes oppose the revolution because they fear changes to their socio-economic networks. Government propaganda has also instilled a fear of an Islamic takeover, especially among Christians. Yet, when buses stopped running; crops failed; and money, jobs, food and decent housing became scarce, protests were inevitable. The situation has been further exacerbated by the massive numbers of unemployed youth. Government response to protests or gatherings is always swift and brutal, delivered by an uneducated security force, but blamed on a "cabal of gangsters" who were actually released prisoners. Starr intersperses his narration with the many voices of citizens who dislike President Assad but also fear civil war and who distrust outside help from western countries they believe will control them. Finally, he exposes the controlled farce of the Arab League observers. Starr's invaluable contribution clarifies the tragic quagmire that is Syria today, but, realistically, he is not optimistic about the future. (Sept.)
The Daily Star
Essential reading.

— Lauren Williams

Huffington Post

The book is an important contribution to the hugely stifled subject of Syria...

Irish Times
Stephen Starr has written an extraordinary account of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.... [An] impressive and insightful eye-witness account.

— Vincent Durgaac

New Statesman
Starr's book is not only an important contribution to the uprising, but also a sometimes terrifying account of the Syrian police state.

— Tam Hussein

Joshua M. Landis

Stephen Starr explores Syria's religious and class divisions with a keen eye for personal anecdote and broad truths. He gets below the surface of this country where people often speak in half-truths and use misdirection as the first line of defense, and he knows the corruption and immobility of Syria's state institutions, but also understands why so many Syrians cling to these same institutions for stability and jobs in a region troubled by so many failed states. Starr is a deft guide to Syria in the midst of revolution. A must-read.

Patrick Seale

Stephen Starr's four-year stay in Syria as a sharp-eyed freelance journalist has given him unusual assets -- an uncommon knowledge of daily life in Damascus; an understanding of the ills of Syrian society; an extensive network of friends from different communities; and sympathetic insight into divided loyalties as the country slides ever closer to civil war.

James Denselow

Revolt in Syria is far more than a simple focus on the clash between the regime and the protestors. It explores, from a non-academic perspective, the fundamental debates that define modern Syria, from dichotomies of state and society, urban and rural, rich and poor, ethnicity and sectarianism which all contribute towards an overall narrative of suppressed discontent which is essential for understanding what fuelled anger in the first place.... An important contribution to this hugely stifled subject.

Fergal Keane

Written with insight and verve, this book is essential reading for anybody interested in Syria.

Irish Times - Vincent Durgaac
Stephen Starr has written an extraordinary account of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.... [An] impressive and insightful eye-witness account.
New Statesman - Tam Hussein

Starr's book is not only an important contribution to the uprising, but also a sometimes terrifying account of the Syrian police state.

The Daily Star - Lauren Williams

Essential reading.

Irish Times - Vincent Durac

Stephen Starr has written an extraordinary account of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.... [An] impressive and insightful eye-witness account.

From the Publisher
"[Starr's] material is vivid, thought-provoking and sometimes shocking...As eyewitness testimony, it has great value, not least because it challenges some of the simple certainties that have characterised coverage of the Syrian uprising. Mr. Starr captures the pain of a deeply torn society in the throes of a bitter struggle, one that has estranged brother from brother, friend from friend."—The Economist

"Starr's book is the only account that gives previously unheard voices a chance to be heard...his familiarity with the sectarian and political milieu in Syria is better than anyone I know. He has spent five years in the country, marrying into Syrian society if there is one Irishman that the Syrians would describe as muta rrib, Arabicised , it is him...Through a series of vignettes and anecdotes, Starr provides us with a plethora of voices from minorities: Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Palestinians, pro-regime and anti regime Syrians...The book is a witness to a dilapidated regime [and] Starr captures it all brilliantly."—New Statesman

"Unlike most western reporters who have written from Syria, Stephen Starr brings to bear a great deal of personal experience of the country, having lived and worked in Damascus for four years, including a spell with the state media. He's the sort of man who notices the price of milk going up and the increased presence of security forces on the streets as the noose tightens. With a wide network of friends and contacts, he conveys the warp and weft of daily life with an admirably nuanced understanding of the place."—The Spectator

"Stephen Starr has taken on the mammoth task of elucidating this confusing country. After four years in Syria, he has some insight. . . The general conclusion is that no one in Syria knows what is going on, either inside or outside their own neighbourhoods. It is therefore a strange kind of enlightenment that this book offers, but probably an accurate on."—Times Literary Supplmenet

"The book is an important contribution to the hugely stifled subject of Syria."—Huffington Post

"In the style of Kapuscinski, Revolt in Syria offers the reader a lively text, filled with interesting anecdotes and conversations detailing the first year of the conflict. Aided by five years as a freelance journalist based in Damascus, Starr draws on a broad array of interviewees when offering examples of the decay afflicting many of the country's institutions." — José Ciro Martínez, New Middle Eastern Studies

"Stephen Starr has written an extraordinary account of the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad...[An] impressive and insightful eye-witness account."—Irish Times

"No-one interested in the contemporary Arab world can afford to miss this book." — The Muslim World Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231704205
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
08/14/2012
Series:
Columbia/Hurst Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Noam Chomsky

Powerful and important. This searching inquiry is painful reading, but urgent for those who hope to understand what lies behind the shocking events in Syria, what the prospects might be, and what outsiders can -- and cannot -- do to mitigate the immense suffering as a country so rich in history and promise careens towards disaster.

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