Insight with Samar Yazbek: Return to Syria

“She never dreamed she would have to write a book like this,” said Kabbani, commenting on Yazbek’s previous success as a novelist, film critic and journalist.

Looking to tell stories and write engaging literature, Yazbek used this lyrical approach to her work to tell the painful story of Syria.

“She managed to still give us the novelist touch, to still make us beguiled, attached and in love with these brave men and women and children… This book has moved us more than any newsreel,” said Kabbani.

Explaining the background to the current conflict, Yazbek elaborated on the complexities and the many international and local forces at play.

“Its not a sectarian war and its not a civilian war. It’s not a regional war, with countries fighting inside Syria. And it’s not only Syria as a magnet, attracting all mercenaries and jihadists across the world. It’s everything together. You can imagine the hell the Syrians live in, under all these descriptions. And under the monster Daesh [IS].”

Discussing the role of the international community, Yazbek voiced frustration with global attention having been directed firmly towards IS, meaning that the atrocities committed by the Assad regime are frequently overlooked.

“When IS kill ten people, the news spreads throughout the world, whilst Assad is killing hundreds of people on a daily basis… What brought IS was the brutal violence planned by the Assad regime.” she said.

Drawing on this subject, Kabbani read an extract from The Crossing.

“The world seems to be waiting for the murky spectre of ISIS to become clear, to crystallise. Innocent civilians continue to fall under the regime’s mortar fire every day. The cogs of international deliberation slowly grind as the blood pours and millions of people are displaced and millions become refugees. Syria will never be the same again. It has been hung, drawn and quartered.”

“What do you feel about Syria’s future?” asked Kabbani. “Are you really as pessimistic as this to say Syria will never be the same again?”

“I can say to you what I saw, what I witnessed; Syria is completely destroyed,” said Yazbek. “I have hope we will be able to build Syria in the way we dreamt… As a person who survived the Syrian massacre, I can only feel that myself and others have to be the bridge towards this dream.”

Yazbek then discussed the strong personal connection Syrians have to their country, alongside the intense sense of loss they experience as their country crumbles.

“I cannot deny that my relationship to Syria is very deep and Syria summarises the world for me. And this is a tragedy, because Syria is not Syria anymore,” said Yazbek.

“This is very painful to hear and I think every Syrian in the room and throughout the world feels this,” added Kabbani.

Click here for more information on The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria.