A Disappearance in Damascus

A Disappearance in Damascus

A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War

eBook - 2016
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We rarely hear the stories of women's courage in the face of danger. This riveting true story of a remarkable relationship between 2 women--the award-winning Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell and Ahlam, an Iraqi woman working as a "fixer" for Western media in Syria as it plunges into war--reveals as much about the universal power of friendship as about the courage of those who bring us our daily news. In 2007, Deborah Campbell, known for her "lion-hearted" reporting on international conflicts, travels undercover to Damascus on assignment to Harper's to report on the exodus of Iraqi refugees into Syria following the fall of Baghdad. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working in Damascus as a "fixer"--providing Western media with information and trustworthy contacts to get the news out. Ahlam, a charismatic woman who fled to Syria after being kidnapped for her work running a humanitarian centre in Iraq, uses the income to support her husband and 2 children and to run a "one-woman NGO," helping orphans and widows and starting a school for teenaged girls. Using skills she honed in Iraq, Ahlam has become a leader of a rag-tag group of war survivors. Campbell comes to love Ahlam's selflessness, resourcefulness and optimism. But the Syrian Secret Police are watching. The morning they seize Ahlam, Campbell is forced to watch, unable to stop them. Fearing that her work with Ahlam has led to her friend's kidnapping, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find Ahlam--all the while fearing she could be next. The story of the eventual reunion and the continuing friendship between 2 brave women from very different cultures is a rare one. And Campbell, a brilliant journalist, simultaneously provides invaluable behind-the-scenes insights into the roots of the wars enveloping Syria and Iraq, the ways fear begets violence, and in a world run this way, how easy it is to lose yourself.
Publisher: 2016
ISBN: 9780345809315
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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lesleyAnicholls
Feb 20, 2019

I read this book on the recommendation of a friend who had heard the author give a reading. An absorbing book on a number of levels. Ahlam, the Iraqi "fixer" Campbell used during her visits to Baghdad and later Damascus is an interesting woman struggling to overcome the prejudices inherent in her culture. Brought up in a rural area outside Baghdad, she obtained a university education, became a teacher but also had a traditional arranged marriage and children. When the war in Iraq, was at its height she left for the relative safety of Syria and saw that country also dissolve into chaos. It surprised to hear Campbell refer to still seeing groups of tourists visiting the souks and mosques of Damascus. Ahlam organized a school for refugee Iraqi children and her home served as an informal community centre for Iraqi refugee women. In addition to this, she worked with the American Forces, helped journalists from all over the world, acting as a translator and arranging meetings with government officials. She eventually was betrayed to the Syrian police by a friend and was captured and imprisoned. Campbell was tried to assist her but ended up having to let things take their course otherwise she could have ended up under arrest. She eventually met up with Ahlam again when she and her family were finally allowed to leave Syria and move to the States.

We share the struggles of Ahlam but also of Campbell as she works to understand the underlying problems of everyday life in the war torn countries of Iraq and Syria. This makes the book a worthwhile read in so many ways. Thoroughly recommended.

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GLNovak
Jan 21, 2019

Ahlam is amazing. I doubt few people, let alone women, would have the quiet bravery she displayed throughout her time as a refugee. We here in Canada have no idea what people face every day as their countries go through turmoil and upheaval the likes of which we have never seen. If those victors of the First World War could have foreseen the results of their carving up of the Middle East, one wonders if they would have put their nationalistic capitalist egos aside and gone ahead with that apportioning. I also have to shake my head at the American machinations that also contributed to the bloodshed that has been going on. The author has humanized the on-going conflict and helped to bring understanding of the whys and hows of it all. I hope there are more Ahlams out there working for peace.

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daveandpaula
Sep 21, 2017

An engaging and bittersweet story based on true events, this book gave me a lot of insight into the background causes of the ever growing maelstrom of war, civil war, chaotic life, disintegrating infrastructure and power struggles that have broken the daily life of the peoples of Syria, Iraq and their bordering countries. I recommend this book.

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daveandpaula
Dec 17, 2017

daveandpaula thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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