“The Impossible Revolution” by Yassin al-Haj Saleh

The Impossible Revolution by Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy

“The Impossible Revolution” is a powerful, compelling critique of Syria’s catastrophic war, which has profoundly reshaped the lives of millions of Syrians. The appearance of Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s work in English has been long awaited. It’s vitally important to listen to Syrian voices on the events which are happening in their country. Saleh’s words are likely to live on for years to come.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a leftist dissident who spent sixteen years as a political prisoner and now lives in exile. He describes with precision and fervour the events that led to Syria’s 2011 uprising, the metamorphosis of the popular revolution into a regional war, and the ‘three monsters’ Saleh sees ‘treading on Syria’s corpse’: the Assad regime and its allies, ISIS and other jihadists, and Russia and the US. Where conventional wisdom has it that Assad’s army is now battling religious fanatics for control of the country, Saleh argues that the emancipatory, democratic mass movement that ignited the revolution still exists, though it is beset on all sides.

The appearance of Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s work in English has been long awaited. It’s vitally important to listen to Syrian voices on the events which are happening in their country.’ — Leila Al Shami, co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

The Impossible Revolution is a powerful, compelling critique of Syria’s catastrophic war, which has profoundly reshaped the lives of millions of Syrians. Saleh takes us on a personal journey through the ecstasy and the heartbreak of Syria’s revolution and the many struggles the country has faced since. Syria’s revolution began as an organic peaceful movement seeking simple and reasonable goals, but as Saleh explains, it soon spawned conflicting, violent and dangerous complexities that sadly now dominate public discourse and on-the-ground dynamics. There is no better voice to tell this book’s many important stories and Saleh’s words are likely to live on for years to come. The appearance of Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s work in English has been long awaited. It’s vitally important to listen to Syrian voices on the events which are happening in their country’, says Leila Al Shami, co-author of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War.

Regime and the jihadists have always been equal

Al-Haj Saleh demonstrates easily, in other words, how the regime and the jihadists have always been equal and opposite sides of the same coinage, and how the only hope for defeating both lies in the democratic movement that has ever been their common enemy. That ISIS and al-Qaeda must be trounced is self-evident for the (incidentally atheist) author, but no less self-evident is that the regime that did so much to bring about their emergence –and killed hundreds of thousands more civilians than them, in case anyone happens to mind about that– must also be allowed no future. That this apparently continues to escape the comprehension of world leaders, more than six years into the conflict, is a source of understandable bewilderment for him.

“Criminality at the heart of the current international order.”

His conclusion is that there is a contagion of “criminality at the heart of the current international order.” The Syrian crisis, indeed, is “no longer a Syrian one. It is a crisis of the world.” The point is well captured in the book’s foreword by fellow Syrian writer Robin Yassin-Kassab: “The specter of Syrian refugees and/or terrorists […] is shaping America’s domestic politics and helping undo the European Union. As hopes for freedom and prosperity are crushed, new strains are injected into old authoritarianisms, and twenty-first century forms of nativism are taking root, west and east.” Al-Haj Saleh puts forward some remedial proposals, including overhauling the UN Security Council that places permanent vetoes against democratic progress in the hands of two appalling autocracies (and three democracies who don’t always vote much more admirably). Beyond that, there is a need to generate “new principles and new institutions, starting with the principle of global responsibility” for the sake of “democracy, which retreats everywhere as soon as it stops progressing anywhere.” In short, if our world has indeed now been “Syrianized,” as al-Haj Saleh puts it, we had better all start becoming Free Syrians.

The impossible Revolution
Paperback / July 2017 €13,00 / 9781849048668 / 312pp

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