During the times of war or chaos, the outside world would be informed only of the number of lives had gone missing or fled away from the troubled land or even left to dead- these numbers could vary from thousands or to many millions. But, what lies beyond these volumes are many lives – people like you and me- in blood, skin and muscle- that add up to those volumes. Every single life is accompanied with dreams and aspiration – every single story of them deserve a telling.
Janine Di Giovanni’s “The Morning They Came For Us” – an unflinching journalistic narration of what happened in the lives of thousands of Syrian’s during Assad’s regime and civil war focuses exactly on those lives.
Book #: 21
Title: “The Morning They Came for Us” – Janine Di Giovanni
There are some books that leave you with a sense of joy and excitement- something to look forward- with happy endings. And there are some that motivate you to be part of a bigger change that could make this world a better place. And then there are some books, that makes you feel disgusted about, make you feel anguish and even at times more makes you feel helpless. But unlike above two, this more often is not a fictional story. This is the taste that Janine’s journalistic account of how the lives of many Syrians changed (ing) during all these civil war years leave you with – and it is exactly how you should feel when you read those stories.
“All we want is our stories to be heard” – is what she writes about some Syrians who lost everything for no fault of theirs- families, lifetime earnings and even struggling to access basic needs.
“Please don’t write about this hospital because they will come to demolish this” – is what a doctor eager to save as many lives as he can hope for. Because they would come for them.
The contrast is what comprehends the horrible life that these people have been experiencing for many years now – only with that hope that one day the situation returns back to normalcy – where they could walk on streets to get groceries, they could turn the taps and water flows, their children could sleep at night without the music of bombings, the sick could get the medication they need. But, will that day ever comes- no one knows. Not even the parties that were involved in the conflict knows.
“This is not done by our people. Syrians don’t do this to other Syrians” is the common phrase you hear from many individuals to whom the narrator spoke to. That is the glimmer of hope you would want to hold onto yourself.
The book starts off describing drive into the city of Damascus, the key war zone.Once you walk through the border, there is no coming back. You witness shattered buildings, piled dead bodies, sharpnels, bomb marks, and everything that could be tagged as ‘horrible’. It is an account of a journalist who moved between cities legally and ‘illegally’ who met with people from both sides of the war. Seven months and Eight cities – no story is different. There is war everywhere. There are tortures everywhere and rapes everyone witnessed or experienced.
You cannot help yourself but draw parallels with the regimes of the holocaust or Stalin or Hitler but none of them could hurt you as much as this one does – because this is happening right here, right now. Right in front of your eyes. This is even before ISIS took control of the area which would mean that there could be no relief in those lives for many years post the narration took place. There is only one way that their lives could end – the war was never going to end- anytime soon.
This is relatively a quick read with less than 300 pages but enough to shake you up. The reason I wanted to pick this up is to understand what was happening in Syria. My initial intention was to take the leads from this book and do a secondary research. But, you just have to read through this and you don’t need any other story – this is it.
Janine perfectly pours her emotions in the ‘Epilogue’ of this book – which would as well be what goes through the minds of each of us- once u finish reading this:
“I swore to myself, after Bosnia, that I would never live through another war that would consume me. I swore to myself that I would not feel again the terrible stirring of guilt so profound – The feeling of we did nothing”
The war described so intimately, Janine di Giovanni’s book takes us to those people who you might never meet in your life and those streets you would never want to walk. It leaves us with an emotion that every single life of those is as important as ours but is there something that we could have done or can still do?