This book gives an incredible picture of the first 100 days of the Syrian revolution. It's close, it's moving, it feels like it's happening right in front of you; it's horrific, too. An Alawite in support of the revolution, targeted fiercely by the regime, Samar Yazbek breaks down the ways in which the Assad regime uses her sect as a "human shield" to save itself. Spreading rumors, dropping leaflets in her hometown that she is a traitor and should be killed, arresting her and displaying tens of tortured bodies in front of her--these are ways they dealt with her, an intellectual, a well-known Alawite author they didn't dare kill. On a larger scale, cordoning off cities by sect and invading and bombarding only those Sunni areas, having shabbiha (Assad's thugs) attack members of each sect and claim it was the other who had attacked to try to start sectarian strife.... And yet the people respond loudly in their demonstrations with "The Syrian People are One."
The horrific character of the regime's thugs and the brutality of the repression from day one is shocking to read. Protestors had to defy all fear to go into the streets. But there are beautiful parts of the book too. Yazbek collects tens of testimonies and meets with members of local coordination committees, youth who have set up revolutionary formations, are moved by a democratic current and emboldened by the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, and devote their lives to creating a democratic Syria. These youth are undeterred by fear or by the reality that the shabbiha and security forces will torture them for participating in a single demonstration. They mobilize and learn quickly, organizing under a united front with secular leftists, communists, Muslim Brotherhood supporters, coordinating doctors under terrifying circumstances, raising funds for prisoners and their families, publishing statements and observing the "pulse" of protests throughout towns of Syria, trying to influence them and ensure that their character is democratic. This democratic nature distinguished the youth from the political opposition, which in too many ways resembled the regime. This book demonstrates with such vivid detail what could have been in Syria had the youth and the democratic character of the uprising received the support it needed rather than the crushing counter-revolution of the regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, and the other sectarian militias, and Nusra and ISIS (also in part created by the regime...). Syria deserves better and the revolutionary spirit is not fully extinguished. How to allow the return to conditions conducive to revolution in this horrific state, I do not know.