In a strikingly truthful book, The Crossing (Stock), Samar Yazbek tells the daily atrocities of the war in Syria. She also explores the irreversible mechanisms of ultra-violence…
How do you define yourself facing the dislocation of Syria?
I am a Syrian writer, nothing else. I am a secular, journalist and activist involved with human rights – including the rights of women. I am neither Alawite or Sunni, or Christian, I refuse to be defined by my confession. I am one of many intellectuals and writers who took to the streets at the beginning of the uprising in 2011, with the Syrian people. We then dreamed of a secular country, a non sectarian united Syria, civic and democratic.
Faced with the collapse of your country, do you now feel you are part of a lost generation?
Everyone bombards Syria. I speak of a land that is being destroyed, of a people undergoing a long series of massacres which I have witnessed. I saw how people survived the day after day, and how they expected to die from one moment to another. Under these conditions, it is impossible to plan for the future, or imagine a solution for our country. Death is the big winner in this conflict, and those who spread it, that is to say the regime and its allies. All other Syrians, including moderate Islamists, have lost.
The variety of forms of death renders people nihilistic. This is also what drives people towards jihadism. Assad’s bombings, continuous, night and day, for years, causes confusion in many individuals. This causes such despair and
such a disappearance of the sense of life that nothing can stop the violence which comes in response to those who want to kill you and all your loved ones. This despair leads directly to the will to die. This in turn leads to
killing others. I met a fighter who told me he was ready to ally with the devil. Left to die, these young people are given up to death. One can then understand that they resort to supernatural forces. They know that in any case death awaits them. They are ready to go all the way against Assad. But the international community has its share of responsibility in this cycle, because of its inability to stop the shelling machine.
In early 2012, Al-Nosra had already begun to form. But in the summer of 2013, Daech appeared in the north, very clearly. Several rounds of massacres had occurred, of which the chemical attack of Ghouta was the coronation. This was the end. After the summer of 2013, when I saw the progress of Daech I realized that Syria was going to be a pile of rubble pile. And I started writing my book …
There is no Syria anymore. It is a torn country, destroyed. Each militia control its own territory. There is Daech, the Russian military presence, the territories occupied by the Iranians, areas held by other jihadist groups… We no longer know what we are talking about.
You write: “These are not my hands that wrote this book.” How do you feel as a young Syrian woman?
I carry hell within me. This kind of pain can make one lose one’s mind. For five years, I have had no personal life, no social life. I struggle to keep thinking. To the extent that I escaped all this trouble, all those killings, I try to turn that pain into work. But humanity disappointed me.