Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
August 21, 2013: a chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus reminds the world of the existence of the Syrian war. Hundreds of journalists from every corner of the world rush to the frontier only to leave disappointed when Obama decides not to bomb. They leave behind 200,000 estimated victims, and more than half of a population of 22 million people dispersed or refugeed in nearby countries: the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII according to the UN.
Francesca Borri is one of them. But she does not leave. She is thirty years old. For months she covers the battle of Aleppo as a freelance reporter. And she quickly realizes that to report a war is to hide with dozens of women and children, even a baby, born there, in a grave, 'a piece of soil under the ground that is as expensive as three houses' or to scavenge for anything to burn for some warmth, 'a broken slipper, the plastic hand of a toy' or to mistake bloody figments of skull for rubble. To report a war is also to meet with officials more worried about the stain of snow on their Clarks than the people they are supposed to help. It is to explain what is happening in Aleppo to journalists who have only been there once, on vacation, and bought a carpet. It is risking one's life because of the jealousy of a fellow reporter. And it is also about dreaming of driving at night with the windows open, about remembering impossible little things, the particular light on that day in that café at the beach when you were a kid, the eyes of people you love, all the minuscule simple joys that can be lost in a moment.
Syrian Dust is a raw and powerful account of the Syrian war that throws the reader right in the middle of it, without any shelter.
state ownership of the means of production has enabled the Assads to create patronage networks that have benefited the middle class, which is predominantly Sunni. This is nothing but a regime of predators, and the opposition is composed entirely of the poor and the excluded. Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians alike. Everyone focuses on religion. But to understand Syria, Abdallah was right: Marx is more useful than the Koran.” So Assad was right. Syria is different. There’s only one point, I said
nothing,” he says. It’s medicine for meningitis. All they have is bread and tea, rainwater to drink. Another child, seven months old, is in Turkey; every so often they try to send her a bottle of mother’s milk through a smuggler. They’ve been here since September, and since September not a soul has passed through. Not an NGO, not the Red Cross. Not a single doctor without borders. No one. They’ve received no aid whatsoever. Nor do they have the slightest expectation, by now. I ask them about the
words that remained caught in your fingers, the times that . . . now it’s too late though, it’s too late for everything, and life holds a fierce beauty now that maybe it’s your turn. Until excitedly, then, a man comes, and announces: Sheik Said has been bombed. And it’s tasteless to admit it, but—it’s hard, but it’s an infinite relief. Sheik Said: not you. An infinite relief. Knowing that someone is dead. And it’s as if this war has robbed you not of humanity, but has suddenly and still more
eighteen of us are missing without a trace—today my helmet is a veil. My bulletproof jacket is a nijab. Because the only way to slip into Aleppo is to pass for a Syrian woman. Disguised. No questions on the street, not even a notebook, a pen. “But it’s not really a matter of the veil,” a woman tells me, having recognized me immediately by my skin, by my hands. “To look like a Syrian today you have to be filthy, haggard, and desperate.” Aleppo is nothing today but hunger and Islam. Kids play on
Increasingly forgotten with each passing day, increasingly on their own, they scavenge for resources as best they can, and in particular wherever they can, namely outside of Syria, from nations or private citizens. They do it, naturally, by promising loyalty to their patrons in tomorrow’s Syria. “But all they buy is our temporary gratitude,” Qannaas points out. And ultimately Syria becomes more entangled with each passing day here, because not only do the weapons increase, but also the objectives