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Revolt in Syria [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Stephen Starr

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1. Juni 2012
In January 2011 President Bashar al-Assad told the Wall Street Journal that Syria was 'stable' and immune from revolt. In the months that followed, and as regimes fell in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of Syrians took to the streets calling for freedom, with many dying at the hands of the regime. In Revolt: Eye-Witness to the Syrian Uprising, Stephen Starr delves deep into the lives of Syrians whose destiny has been shaped by the state for almost fifty years. In conversations with people from all strata of Syrian society, Starr draws together and makes sense of perspectives illustrating why Syria, with its numerous sects and religions, was so prone to violence and civil strife. Through his unique access to a country largely cut off from the international media during the unrest, Starr delivers compelling first hand testimony from both those who suffered and benefited most at the hands of the regime. Revolt details why many Syrians wanted Assad's government to stay as the threat of civil war loomed large, the long-standing gap between the state apparatus and its people and why the country's youth stood up decisively for freedom. Starr also sets out the positions adhered to by the country's minorities and explains why many Syrians believe that enforced regime change might precipitate a region-wide conflict.

Wird oft zusammen gekauft

Revolt in Syria + Syrian Rebellion (Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order) + Syria: A Decade of Lost Chances: Repression and Revolution from Demascus Spring to Arab Spring
Preis für alle drei: EUR 47,71

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'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.' - Noam Chomsky 'Vivid, thought-provoking and sometimes shocking - has great value, not least because it challenges some of the simple certainties that have characterised coverage of the Syrian uprising. - 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 'Stephen Starr had a unique vantage point as Syria's revolution unfolded. Written with insight and verve, his book is essential reading for anybody interested in Syria.' - Fergal Keane, author and BBC journalist 'In Revolt in Syria, Stephen Starr has taken on the mammoth task of elucidating this confusing country. After four years in Syria he has some insight. - He presents a very readable account of the chaos and confusion in Syrian towns and neighbourhoods. - The general conclusion is than no one in Syria knows what is going on - It is therefore a strange kind of enlightenment that this book offers, but probably an accurate one.' - Times Literary Supplement '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 'Revolt is a must-read for anyone interested in the causes and course of the Syrian uprising. Stephen Starr plums the religious and class divisions of Syria with a keen eye for personal anecdote and broad truths. What is more, he entertains as he instructs; his prose is lively and his conversations are filled with insight and startling revelations. He records his discussion with a broad spectrum of Syrians, both famous and unknown. Having spent five years working in Syria as a reporter, Starr gets below the surface of this country where people so often speak in half-truths and use misdirection as the first line of defense. Starr knows the corruption and immobility of Syria's state institutions, having worked as an editor of Syria's only state-run English language paper. But he 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.' - Joshua M. Landis, Director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma, and author of Syria Comment '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 a sympathetic insight into divided loyalties as the country slides ever closer to civil war.' - Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East; and The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East. 'A brave account - There is huge value in the thoughts and stories of someone who has been in Syria for four years rather than the instant impressions of shorter and more controlled trips. - Revolt 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, ethnic 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.' - James Denselow, Huffington Post UK 'Revolt is a brave account written by someone who knows Syria and has been there since long before the outbreak of protests and violence in March 2011. - The book provides a nuanced look into the protest movements and how they spread. - Far more than a simple focus on the clash between the regime and the protestors, the book 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, ethnic and sectarianism which all contribute towards an overall narrative of suppressed discontent which is essential for understanding what fuelled anger in the first place. - Starr's analysis of the workings of the regime and the demands and divisions in Syrian society demonstrate an excellent knowledge of the country, which combines to create a rare and thorough eyewitness perspective of the events of the past year.' - John Calvert, Associate Professor of History at Creighton University and author of Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism 'A complex, nuanced and even-handed account that avoids the simplicities of much of the analysis of the Arab Spring. - At its core is an extraordinarily wide-ranging set of interviews with Syrians of all political and religious persuasions, from those who actively support the regime, to those who oppose it by a variety of means, to the very many in between who long for something better than the political repression and economic stagnation that Assad's rule offers but who fear what might happen should he be overthrown. - Anyone interested in the complex realities that underpin the conflict in Syria should be grateful that he took the risks that he did in order to produce this impressive and insightful eye-witness account.' - Irish Times 'Revolt in Syria is a testament to the need for ground reporting. - [Starr] provides those knowledgeable of Syria with familiar and refreshing antidotes to mainstream coverage of the conflict. For those less familiar, [his book] is essential reading to gather a deeper understanding of how Damascus ticks, and why it matters.' - The Daily Star, Lebanon

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Stephen Starr is a freelance Irish journalist who has been reporting from Damascus since 2007. He covered the Syrian uprising for some of the world's leading newspapers and his work has been published in The Washington Post, Financial Times, The Times and Sunday Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Irish Times. He is also the founder and editor-inchief of Near East Quarterly.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.0 von 5 Sternen  1 Rezension
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Frustrating but unique 25. Dezember 2013
Von James R. Maclean - Veröffentlicht auf
(The author of this review has never visited Syria. What follows is a book review, not a discussion of events in Syria.)

A survey of books published on the Syrian Revolt of 2011 is disappointing: nearly all of them (this excepted) are summaries of widely available news reports on Syria (1). This one and Mr. Wieland's (see footnote) consist mainly of the authors' personal observations in Syria. Starr's account is almost a diary, while Wieland's is organized like an area handbook.

Starr's book urgently needs an editor. The writing is at times difficult to follow, as if he had stitched together many rough drafts, without being able to remember what he had explained to readers. Crucial backstory is often missing or misrepresented (2). Whenever summarizing relevant historical events, Starr crumples the chronology:


When the Baath (Renaissance) Party took control of Syria in 1963, followed by an internal military coup led by Hafez al-Assad in 1970, Arab nationist sentiment was elevated to the extent that Kurds were sidelined. In 1962, an 'exceptional census' stripped some 120,000 Kurds of the Syrian citizenship. [...] An alliance established by Hafez al-Assad in the 1970s broke down in in 2004 when an uprising followed a football game in the remnants of the Damascus Spring of 2000-01, the 2004 Kurdish revolt serving to embolden the Kurds [...] (p.35)


However, there are so many books about the history of Assad in Syria, or Syria in general, that most readers will not care about this. Most readers will want a feel for Syrian society drawn from Starr's interviews or observations.

Here, Starr excels. Often his writing is vivid and evocative, if hopeless in its pursuit of a conclusion. He does capture a lot of nuance in the complicated relationships of different segments of Syrian society: the Baathist epoch has utterly transformed the country, spawning a host of 2nd-order effects.

But Starr's own personality gets in the way a lot, too. He argues and hectors interview subjects; he dwells a lot on observations that are frankly noise. For example, it turns out that Syrians no less than US nationals, when asked a question about public issues, typically say several incompatible things--like, we need a theocracy to be free, or the like. This is not meaningful, especially if one is exposed to political arguments in a lot of different countries (it's not just countries in dire crisis where people say deranged things). In the first part of the book he records not only his questions, but his pronouncements to Syrians--no doubt stunned at a journalist lecturing them. For example, he rails to ordinary civilians about their preferences:


[LEILA:]"The last thing we need is for NATO or America or Turkey to come and help us. This will destroy the country and I know that if they come it will only be for their own interests [...] I do not want freedom if it is free"


"[STARR:]So how many people must die for you to get what you want? Is it not wrong that people are dying every day?" I asked. (p.119)


This is not intended as a real question, however tactless. And Starr does this constantly. After one particular observation, he suddenly becomes convinced the regime will fall; before, he has been impatient with people who want the regime to fall, and afterward, he is doubly impatient with people who fear the consequences of it falling.

The description of society or how Syrians/Syrian institutions behave in common situations is handy, if random (because he's simply generalizing from his personal experiences.) So this book falls into the category of one Westerner's testimony of the early phase of the Revolution, just as it transitioned into a guerrilla war. Starr's own personal expectations and preferences muddy the waters, and it is often quite difficult to decide what point he's trying to make, but not many other outsiders have recorded their experiences in such detail.
(1) For up-to-date information, I've relied mostly on Joshua Landis's blog, Syria Comment. One very good companion to this work, in my opinion, is Carsten Wieland's Syria - A Decade of Lost Chances: Repression and Revolution from Damascus Spring to Arab Spring (released 1 March 2012). Starr's book was released 23 weeks later, in August. Starr was a freelance journalist from Ireland, while Wieland was a diplomat from Germany.

(2) In addition to the turgid syntax of the quoted passage, Starr makes occasional jabs at the Baath Party's socialist past. I'm not sure if this just hippie-punching, or Marx-kicking (see my review for the The Morality of Money), or if Starr genuinely feels let down by the Baath Party's one-time socialist credentials, but characterizing the Baathist as "socialist" is a little like calling F. von Hayek a "liberal," and then taking this to mean he was just like Senator George McGovern. In a like manner, nearly all political activists in the developing world self-identified as "socialist" for many years; in some cases, such as early Baathists Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar (founders of the Baath Party) or Gamal Abdul Nasser (1958-1962, President of the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria), this meant scarcely more than a developmentalist agenda and a commitment to "reform" traditional social institutions.

After 1962, Aflaq and Bitar resumed their control over Syrian politics; in 1966, a bloody coup replaced them with Saleh Jadid, who really did attempt to implement a hardline quasi-Leninist regime in Syria. After 1968-ish, this mainly consisted of terrible foreign relations--war, or veritable war, with Israel, Jordan, and the West (Edward Luttwak, in Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook, argues that Jadid was compelled to affect "socialism" because it afforded a manageable state structure, considering the sectarian and class structure of Syria). Assad's 1970 coup explicitly replaced a "socialist" dictatorship with a "nationist" one. This is not ironic, nor does it say anything about leftwing politics. The right beat the left in Syria after an open fight between military factions.
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