Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

All my friends have left Syria”

Sponsored by Liveright

In January, Charles Glass visited Syria. Forced to relinquish his reporting visa, as he writes in the Review’s March 23 issue, he instead wandered Damascus—in the Assad-ruled section of the country, largely removed from the fighting in the north—meeting with friends and “gossiping with shopkeepers, and hearing again and again that life is unbearable.” On February 6, days after he left the country, the earthquake struck: “To war and hunger can be added the blind cruelty of nature.”

Glass’s report takes in the devastation wrought by years of war and the recent natural disaster, but also by decades of sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union. “The Caesar Act,” passed by Congress in 2019, “threatens to penalize anyone from any nation who assists in reconstructing Syria’s infrastructure, which has been devastated by years of war. Such is the logic of sanctions.” With violence and starvation exacerbated by runaway inflation, sporadic electricity, and scarce oil, millions of refugees have fled. “All my friends have left Syria,” the novelist Khaled Khalifa tells Glass. “Who knows what will happen to Syria now? No one.”

Below, alongside Glass’s essay, we’ve collected a selection of articles from our archives about the last decade in Syria.

Charles Glass
Disenchantment and Devastation in Syria

The civil war may be over in Damascus, but the mood in the city is one of resignation.

Charles Glass
Scheherazade in a Syrian Cell

“Khaled Khalifa is Syria’s biographer, much as Gore Vidal declared himself America’s.”

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Syria’s Monumental Loss

Photographs can be a form of defiance, an assertion of memory against erasure. If monuments are a projection of the human desire for immortality, Kevin Bubriski’s photographs of Syria from 2003 implicitly remind us of the human capacity for destructiveness.

Molly Crabapple
Where Else Can They Go?

“Hannah Arendt wrote, ‘Nobody wants to know that contemporary history has created a new kind of human beings—the kind that are put into concentration camps by their foes and internment camps by their friends.’ Nearly eighty years later, the world has come no closer to ensuring the rights of a human without a country.”

Robyn Creswell
Voices from a Different Syria

The anonymous Syrian film collective Abounaddara shows the everyday as rendered strange by war, yet war itself takes place among the stubborn routines of daily life.

Photograph by Wasim Faour

Charles Glass
Syria: The Citadel & the War

“Archaeologists believe that human beings settled on the hilltop that became Aleppo—some 225 miles north of Damascus—around eight thousand years ago…. Successive conquerors planted their standards on the ramparts of a fortress that they enlarged and reinforced over centuries to complete the impressive stone Citadel that dominates the city today.”


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