Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
(Saadi, Persian poet, 13th century)
Karin Leukefeld, born in 1954, studied ethnology, Islamic studies and political science. Since 2000, she has reported as a freelance journalist from the Middle East and since 2005 has kept travelling to Syria, even until today. In 2010, she received the official accreditation by the Syrian government as a journalist in Syria. Karin Leukefeld knows the region well. In her numerous reports and publications she explicitly doesn’t see herself as a war correspondent: Her work is about every individual, their hopes, their activities and their suffering. She doesn’t remain untouched by what she hears and sees in Syria and so, she conveys something that lacks in mainstream reporting: compassion. It is from that compassion and from the variety of their personal encounters of the past 15 years that she draws in her reports and books.
Her latest book is entitled “Syria between shadow and light – people talk about their war-torn country”. It is a moving document and she succeeds in connecting objective account of the facts with compassionate convey what these facts mean for the people’s lives. Karin Leukefeld covers the period from 1916 to today. She describes the distressed and hopeful history of Syria and its hospitable and brave residents in the 20th century. She starts with a summary of a period of history just to add a chapter that brings the flair of these times through the reports of eyewitnesses. By doing this, she imparts that history is always made and experienced by men.
In 1916 today’s Middle East was bartered in a power play among the former winners of World War I, Great Britain and France. The British government divided a country several times to different actors that did not belong to it. France opposed the right to self-determination of the people with racist arguments and finally occupied today Syria and split it to his taste.
While reading further many new insights arise.
For example, who knows that the Emirate of Qatar, which particularly has fueled the war in Syria both medially and financially, had invested in the first phase of the government Bashar al-Assad especially in different projects? Qatar wanted to use parts of an existing gas pipeline through Syria and aimed at building a new pipeline to sell gas through Jordan, Syria and Turkey on the European market. “The Qatar pipeline would have strengthened the influence of the Gulf countries, Europe and the US in the region,” says Leukefeld, to the detriment of Russia. In 2009, Bashar al-Assad finally declared that he would not agree to the pipeline project because of the interests of the ally Russia. So that was the reason for Qatar to overthrow the Assad government.
Or, who knows the backgrounds of Kofi Annan’s resignation as UN special investigator for Syria in 2012? Karin Leukefeld reports: “In June 2012, Annan succeeded in presenting a ‘Geneva Accord’ to negotiate on the political transformation of Syria. Both, the foreign ministers of the veto powers in the UN Security Council, and Syria agreed. Immediately after signing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned to the press and said that the agreement could only be implemented if the Syrian President Assad resigned. Finally, United Nations Special Envoy Annan resigned.” The country would have been spared great suffering if the conflict had taken a different course at that time. Given a possible US presidency of Mrs Clinton this information is very alarming.
Or else, who has heard in Western media of the existence of an inner Syrian opposition, which sincerely keeps advocating against outside interference and militarization of the conflict and which, with its unconditional demand to end the fighting, has found no resonance in Paris, Berlin or London, yet? There it is not asked for. Again, Syria is denied the right to go an independent way.
In 2015, Syria is destroyed by war, even though it was predicted a good economic future in 2010, and even though the people imagined a peaceful path of reform before the so-called Arab Spring. Karin Leukefeld concludes that the Syrians had no chance. “They have been deceived. Nevertheless, they do not give up. [...] They help each other, withstanding patiently shortage, insecurity, inflation and false promises.” She ends up with a testimony of a friend, a 28-year-old Syrian, who remained in his own country, but doesn’t want to live in a divided country: “Now we have to worry about today, there is plenty to do. However, one day, the chaos will be over, and then, it will be the women who will rebuild Syria. The men are dead, in jail, or they have left the country. However, the women are here, they will rebuild Syria.”
After having read the book, we might better understand the plight of those people who could not stay in Syria and had to flee from their homes. Many of them are Palestinians whose families had already been expelled without any belongings from their homes and had found refuge in Syria.
In her book, Karin Leukefeld succeeds in awakening compassion for those affected by the political decisions of the last century. We recommend the book to anybody interested in political issues. •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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