A while ago, eagerly and secretly, a professor at Edinburgh University began a correspondence over email with a man he thought was a Russian spy. ‘Ivan’, as the spy eventually took signing himself, wanted to thank the professor, Paul McKeigue, for his sterling efforts on matters of mutual interest. Those efforts, Ivan assured the professor, were appreciated by the boys in his office in Moscow.
Even in wartime, bureaucracies continue to produce weights of paper. Baathist bureaucracies are no exception. Throughout Syria’s war, the extent to which the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s worst excesses have found their way onto official paper has surprised onlookers. Couched among the death certificates issued by state-run prisons lies the documentation, officially signed, legally witnessed, describing a campaign of mass murder. It is punctilious, and in plain sight. Continue reading →
Review – My Country: A Syrian Memoir by Kassem Eid
Kassem Eid’s memoir opens with a mournful preface. The author, a Syrian who has faced the full force of his country’s recent history, accepts he cannot escape its suffering. Eid says he has fled across continents, travelling as far as he can. He has lived as hard as he can, yet he cannot forget. He cannot suppress the bitter memories of which he is the custodian. Continue reading →
Around the world and in Syria itself, there is an idea which is gaining traction.
This idea holds, in effect, that the war is coming to an end. Its proponents suggest that things are beginning to fall into place; that the situation is beginning to become conclusive; and that, very soon, the country will reach something like stasis, or even a final state. Continue reading →
The country has seen hundreds of thousands of its citizens killed in bombings and fighting, with more dying as a result of war’s inescapable consequences, and yet more disappearing into regime prisons and into the hands of radical groups such as the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading →
This week’s march, entitled ‘Unite the Right’, by a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other right-wing extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, has thrown the United States into turmoil. Continue reading →
The Mosul offensive has come to an end. The Islamic State has been militarily defeated and its remnants destroyed within the city.
This is a victory for the state of Iraq. A new nation, remade after the evil of Ba’athism was removed from power, it has faced down a grave threat, and given much in a struggle against an existential enemy of the free world. Continue reading →
The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading →