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No Turning Back
Cover of No Turning Back
No Turning Back
Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria

A New York Times Notable Book of 2018

This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country.

Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted videos of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two named Mohammad, secretly radicalized and newly released from prison, saw a darker opportunity in the unrest. When violence broke out in Homs, a poet named Abu Azzam became an unlikely commander in a Free Syrian Army militia. The regime's brutal response disrupted a family in Idlib province, where a nine-year-old girl opened the door to a military raid that caused her father to flee. As the bombings increased and roads grew more dangerous, these people's lives intertwined in unexpected ways.

Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad's prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and organizations manipulated the rebels, and to the highest levels of Islamic militancy and the formation of ISIS. Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century's greatest humanitarian disasters.

A New York Times Notable Book of 2018

This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country.

Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted videos of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two named Mohammad, secretly radicalized and newly released from prison, saw a darker opportunity in the unrest. When violence broke out in Homs, a poet named Abu Azzam became an unlikely commander in a Free Syrian Army militia. The regime's brutal response disrupted a family in Idlib province, where a nine-year-old girl opened the door to a military raid that caused her father to flee. As the bombings increased and roads grew more dangerous, these people's lives intertwined in unexpected ways.

Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad's prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and organizations manipulated the rebels, and to the highest levels of Islamic militancy and the formation of ISIS. Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century's greatest humanitarian disasters.

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About the Author-
  • Rania Abouzeid won the Michael Kelly Award and George Polk Award for foreign reporting, among many other prizes for international journalism. She has written for The New Yorker, National Geographic, and Time, as well as other publications, and is a current New America fellow. She lives in Beirut, Lebanon.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2017

    For her in-depth coverage of the Middle East, Beirut-based Abouzeid has earned numerous honors, from the George Polk Award to the UK's Frontline Club Print Award to the European Commission's Anna Lindh Journalist Foundation Award. Here she gives a history of the war that has shattered Syria, moving from the fiercely crushed demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship in 2011 through the rise of numerous factions, including the Islamic State, to the rubble, the multitudinous refugees, and the fractured state left behind by the fighting.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2017
    Harrowing reporting from the front lines of the civil war in Syria.As Beirut-based freelance journalist Abouzeid, who has won the George Polk Award, writes in her opening pages, the Syrian government declared her an enemy and a spy fairly early in the popular uprising, forcing her not just to enter the country illegally, but also to focus on the opposition. That the book does not give equivalency, false or otherwise, to the government's side of the story does not diminish its objectivity or value. The author brings us the stories of people who, though capable of speaking for themselves, are not often heard from and might as well be voiceless insofar as audiences outside the country are concerned. By Abouzeid's account, all is chaos and ruin: so many people have died in the civil war in Syria that the U.N. long ago gave up trying to count them. The author is a reliable guide to the ethnic and religious intricacies of the struggle; one of the figures she interviews, while no friend of the regime, is an Alawite, like the ruling family, and therefore is reckoned to be one of them. That does not make him a friend of the opposition, not necessarily. Just so, some of the people Abouzeid profiles are members of militias allied with the Islamic State group and al-Qaida; many of the players involved answer in the affirmative to the question, "do you want the Quran to be the constitution in a future state?" Says one thoughtful rebel who figures prominently in the account, "We want an Islamic state, too, but only after we've liberated Syria and start liberating Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan can we establish a caliphate." Readers without familiarity with the many strains of opposition to the Assad regime are likely to emerge from this book a touch less confused--though without much cause for hope, either.An eye-opening account of those who "played a pivotal role in the revolution's trajectory."

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 5, 2018
    Foreign correspondent Abouzeid spins finely detailed and informed narratives of how life in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria descended into street protests and the bloody ongoing chaos of the “civilian revolution.” Abouzeid explores the revolt, primarily through the stories of young men who take on the regime, including Suleiman, a wealthy middle manager turned activist; Mohammad, a father imprisoned for suspected Islamist ties and subjected to grisly tortures; and the pseudonymous Abu Azzam, a literature student turned rebel fighter. She also conveys the plight of noncombatants, such as one young girl, Ruha, and her family, who escape to Turkey to become “business-class refugees,” out of immediate danger but enduring the hardships of a foreign country while trying to aid those in their hometown across the border. The author skillfully sets forth the complex political and military rivalries between those supporting and opposing the regime, discussing their backers from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the foreign and homegrown fighters who became ISIS. In notes at the beginning and end, Abouzeid details her intense and perilous reporting process. She was banned from the country, she explains, soon after protests began, but nevertheless spent roughly three weeks a month clandestinely entering Syria for the next several years. Her grueling reportage is a formidable accomplishment.

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Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria
Rania Abouzeid
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