In 2011, many Syrians took to the streets of Damascus to demand the overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad. Today, much of Syria has become a warzone and many worry that the country is on the brink of collapse.
Burning Country explores the complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first-hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists. Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami expertly interweave these stories with an incisive analysis of the militarization of the uprising, the rise of the Islamists and sectarian warfare, and the role of Syria’s government in exacerbating the brutalization of the conflict. Through these accounts and a broad range of secondary source material, the authors persuasively argue that the international community has failed in its stated commitments to support the Syrian opposition movements.
Covering ISIS and Islamism, regional geopolitics, new grassroots revolutionary organizations, and the worst refugee crisis since World War Two, Burning Country is a vivid and groundbreaking look at a modern-day political and humanitarian nightmare.
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Robin Yassin-Kassab is a regular media commentator on Syria and the Middle East and the author of the novel The Road From Damascus and contributor to Syria Speaks. Leila Al-Shami is a founding member of Tahrir-ICN, a network that aims to connect antiauthoritarian struggles across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
"Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami want to keep faith with the original impulse of the Syrian revolution—their book is full of fascinating details about the early protest movements—and they also stress the importance of letting Syrians speak. The chief interest of Burning Country...is its inclusion of voices from the front lines. Burning Country lets us listen to many voices we aren’t likely to hear on the news." (New York Review of Books)
"?Those in search of perspective on Syria’s devastation should turn to Burning Country, by the reporter Yassin-Kassab and the activist al-Shami. Their book offers a knowledgeable, empathetic, morally lucid account of the revolt against the Assad regime and an explanation of why—to the horror of many of its supporters—it became a civil war. Burning Country avoids the easy indulgence of indignation; instead, it elicits the voices of many different Syrians involved in the uprising, acknowledging their suffering as well as their courage, intelligence, and humanity, while explaining the terrible choices that have been forced on them." (The Nation)
“Burning Country is both exposition and record of the people behind the Syrian uprising....Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami work to undo the narrative traps that define popular perceptions of Syria, giving color to the individuals who have mounted alternatives for the country and whose stories are little known. What distinguishes the book from other reporting on Syria is its deep look at how cultural and intellectual production has evolved alongside the conflict.”
"A number of gripping new books have recently been published that evocatively describe the grim trajectory of Syria’s uprising and war. Burning Country explores how Syria’s peaceful uprising gave way to armed insurgency and sectarian jihad. They offer a sympathetic portrait of a heroic uprising gone wrong, describing in all too painful detail the transformations wrought by armed groups and Assad’s brutality. This is an important, honest and insightful book, well worth anyone’s time." (Washington Post)
"In their new book Burning Country, journalist Yassin-Kassab and human rights activist Al-Shami provide a bracing and timely reminder that no matter how long the war rages or how unreachable a political settlement may appear, the world owes it to the Syrian peopl —especially the peaceful revolutionaries—to listen to their stories and support their cause. Burning Country is a portrait of the opposition, a movement of protest against Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, which has been nearly forgotten amid the humanitarian strife, factionalism, and power politics surrounding and driving the conflict."
"This book provides an emotionally restrained history of the Syrian people’s struggle against the Assad regime. Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami describe a bloody war between two enemies both claiming the soul of a nation. With the Syrian civil war as context, the reader is also presented with instructive and absorbing discussions of the struggles for power and over ideas within the forces claiming the revolutionary mantle. Although the account written in these pages is of a tragedy beyond most readers’ comprehension, it is a tragedy that will continue to be felt around the world, as refugees leave their ruined lives behind in search of some kind of living peace. [Burning Country] should be read by as many people as possible."
"Provides a comprehensive account of the Syrian revolution from its inception in 2011 to the present. Through interviews with Syrians from across the spectrum of society, the book charts the trajectory of the uprising from the grassroots civil society initiatives that lie at the core of the uprising to its militarization and sectarian polarization." (The Brooklyn Rail)
"It is in British-Syrian writers Yassin-Kassab and Al Shami’s Burning Country that we find a definitive people’s history of the uprising. The book explains in scrupulous detail the context of the uprising, the aims of the revolution, the regime’s brutal response, the causes of militarization, the rise of the Islamists, and the resilience of Syrian society through repression, war, and exile. Yassin-Kassab, Al Shami, and others have ensured that the answer to 'What do Syrians want?' is no longer a mystery." (Dissent)
"Judging from the news coverage, you’d think the Syrian conflict was about everyone but the Syrian people. Syrian perspectives have been almost entirely absent from conversations about the refugee crisis, ISIS and the fate of the Assad regime. Burning Country offers a compelling counter-narrative, rich with the voices of the Syrian people. Equal parts history and analysis, Al-Shami and Yassin-Kassab foreground the grassroots organizations and culture that have flowered in Syria since the revolution began, despite the Assad regime and ISIS’s attacks. Most illuminating is the authors’ discussion of the local councils that oversee the functioning of public services primarily in rebel-controlled territory, of which there are more than 400." (In These Times)
"As well as a non-orthodox telling of the conflict from the point of view of the activists and fighters who took part in the revolution, the book also speaks to the confusion and reluctance of western progressives to engage in the reality of Syria." (Middle East Eye)
"A work that gives a voice to the Syrian revolutionaries who are the political and moral descendants of the brigades that took up arms against Franco in the name of democracy and social justice." (New Politics)
"This is the best book yet interpreting the tragedies that have befallen Syria since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. It offers the best coverage of the war by two Syrian scholars and journalists who have participated in it. They describe the increasingly oppressive government of President Bashar al-Assad before the war. They also analyze the inability of the secular nationalists to offer meaningful opposition due to societal, class, sectarian, religious, and geographical differences. Syria is, indeed, 'a burning country,' and it will continue to burn. Essential." (Choice)
"Illuminates the lives of everyday folks who are traumatized or displaced by violence and war.....The authors’ passion for the courage and language of everyday people emboldens their narrative of Syria’s 'Arab Spring.'" (Christian Century)
"[Burning Country] really digs into the various stages and evolutions of the current conflict." (Megan Price, executive director of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group)
"Burning Country is poised to become the definitive book not only on the continuing Syrian conflict but on the country and its society as a whole. Very few books have been written on ‘the kingdom of silence’ that effectively capture how we all got here while not omitting the human voice, the country's heroes and heroines—a combination that is rare but essential for understanding the conflict and its complexities. Yassin-Kassab and Al-Shami have written a must-read book even as the conflict still rages to understand what happened, why it happened and how it should end." (Hassan Hassan, co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror)
"For decades Syrians have been forbidden from telling their own stories and the story of their country, but here Yassin-Kassab and al-Shami tell the Syrian story. Their words represent the devastated country which has denied them and their compatriots political representation. Burning Country is an indispensable book for those who wish to know the truth about Syria." (Yassin al-Haj Saleh)
"Burning Country could have been titled A People's History of the Syrian Revolution and War: it provides a view from below that constitutes the perfect antidote to geopolitical reductionism. This book is unique in its combination of first-hand material derived from fieldwork, factual and analytical rigour, and unshakable faith in the Syrian people's struggle for justice and dignity." (Thomas Pierret Lecturer, University of Edinburgh, Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World)
"By far the best account of the Syrian uprising yet. It is a comprehensive and nuanced analysis of a multifaceted geopolitical conflict and myriad grassroots struggles. Anyone interested in comprehending the highly convoluted situation in Syria must read this extremely sophisticated book." (Dr. Yasser Munif, co-founder of the Global Campaign of Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution)
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Book Description Pluto Press, 2016. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110745336272