October 14, 2015
Neuö Zürcör Zäitung: The Crossing: “Yazbek presents a balanced account”

Neuö Zürcör Zäitung: The Crossing: “Yazbek presents a balanced account”

This article by Angela Schader, was published by NZZ, on September 22, 2015
“Where the sceptre of war leads: Atef Abu Saif has breakfast with drones, and Samar Yazbek travels through destroyed Syria”


At the beginning of “The Stolen Revolution” [The Crossing], Samar Yazbek takes a peculiar position.

All the details of this report are real, she writes, there is only one fictitious character here – myself: “I watch the details, the reality, the action is not based on what I am, but on this fictional character I am (…) I left the real woman aside. I resort to this other woman, the fictional one, the reactions of which correspond to the need for which she lives.” This is where she finds the courage to travel to the war zone, and the necessary composure when she talks to victims, fighters and Islamist warlords.

However, the original purpose of Yazbek’s visits to Syria was not reporting. Rather, in the Northern areas of the country, where the opposition to the Asad regime are in control, she wants to  build schools and help women in their projects. During her first stay in 2012, the majority of people she meets expresses the hope of a liberal, democratic state and religious tolerance. However, already then, Yazbek realized

how fragmented and uncoordinated the secular resistance movement was. During her second stay in February 2013, jihadist fighters had already penetrated. Her companion predicts that “The influence of such groups will increase, and they will become powerful and brutal”, “ “we will see videos of people being flogged beheaded”. This gruesome prophecy turned out to be true (…)

Yazbek here presents a balanced account, where she also describes the hideous excesses of the government soldiers (…)

Although Yazbek visits strongholds of civilian resistance, like the editors of the magazine “Zeitoun” or the village Kafranbel, pain and resignation rapidly penetrates her records (…) The people in Syria have paid for this perverse war four agonizing years. They have stayed in their home, hoping for help, in vain. Now, they stand at Europe’s borders.