Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of Arab Spring
New York, NY
While many might be familiar with the uprisings surrounding Arab Spring, it is hard to say the same about what came before or after. Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of Arab Spring elaborates on what we think we know and more importantly, reports on what we need to know. In the text’s foreword, Patrick Cockburn, a fellow journalist, introduces the crucial value of Charles Glass' perspective on the series of events following the rise of Arab Spring four years ago. From a realm of bias and othering, former ABC NEWS chief Middle East correspondent Glass offers insight of the war and its aftermath.
Glass' previous titles include The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II and Americans In Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation, both depicting his findings beneath the surface of what we know about either historical event.
In Syria, citizen uprisings sparked and later transcended to a civil war in 2010. Approximately, 8 million Syrians have fled from their homes because of the war, not counting civilian deaths. Glass outlines an in-depth chronology of events that follow the birth of Arab Spring, ignition of the civil war, and the radical redirection of international priorities to ISIS. In three years, the media attention of the West shifted to ISIS and thereby replaced its coverage of Syria.
Throughout the text, Glass ties the more recent course of events to the country’s political history. For instance, the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925 relates to 2011’s revolts: “... both started with petitions and non-violent demonstrations over discontent with local governors” (65). While the book packs much information in less than 150 pages, it compliments readers that are less familiar with the conflicts and are looking to educate themselves. Whether you’re a Syria expert or a novice, this read suffices your curiosity. However, it is not light read, to say the least.
In four chapters, Glass explains the histories of surrounding nations and their relative conflicts. He utilizes the metaphor of a shattered mosaic to describe Syria, once held together by its diverse beauty, that is now torn apart by corruption and violence. He then discusses the end of the revolution in Aleppo, where one native explains:
“We cheered the Free Army. But what is happening today is a crime against the inhabitants of our neighborhood. For there are no offices or government security or the shabihah [pro-regime Alawite gangs]. However, the groups that have taken position in the neighborhood cannot defend it … We, the elders of Bani Zayd neighborhood, are responsible for making this statement and demand that battalions of the Free Army which have entered the neighborhood leave it and join battles on hot fronts … This would ensure the return of calm to the neighborhood and would end the random shelling [by regime forces] of a poor neighborhood housing thousands of displaced people.” (112–113)
Finally, the afterward asks if the revolution could have been different, potentially as the social movement that saved their country. Glass examines Lebanon, stresses the involvement of fanatic Islamization of the Syrian revolution, and briefly touches upon weapons used that were made in the United States.
Corcione recently accepted a job as a reporter for a small town newspaper. Follow her reporting and other work here.