Revolt in Syria

Stephen Starr, Author
Stephen Starr. Columbia Univ., $20.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-231-70420-5
Paperback - 226 pages - 978-1-84904-197-3
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Living in Syria for nearly five years has given freelance Irish journalist Starr a unique perspective on the current unrest. His fluent Arabic, ordinary routine, and innate caution enabled him to observe and listen to the people's voices, learning how Syria's "complex mix of religions, cultures, and ideals," embedded corruption, and vast wealth disparity have fueled instability. Wealthy Damascenes oppose the revolution because they fear changes to their socio-economic networks. Government propaganda has also instilled a fear of an Islamic takeover, especially among Christians. Yet, when buses stopped running; crops failed; and money, jobs, food and decent housing became scarce, protests were inevitable. The situation has been further exacerbated by the massive numbers of unemployed youth. Government response to protests or gatherings is always swift and brutal, delivered by an uneducated security force, but blamed on a "cabal of gangsters" who were actually released prisoners. Starr intersperses his narration with the many voices of citizens who dislike President Assad but also fear civil war and who distrust outside help from western countries they believe will control them. Finally, he exposes the controlled farce of the Arab League observers. Starr's invaluable contribution clarifies the tragic quagmire that is Syria today, but, realistically, he is not optimistic about the future. (Sept.)
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