This collection of hundreds of excerpts from interviews of refugees who have fled the violence that has gripped Syria since 2011 makes for sickening, although unsurprising, reading. The brutality, greed, and cynicism of the leading actors led one refugee to say, “I’ve reached a point in my life where I hate everything. I am disgusted by humanity.” Another, contemplating the rise of al Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), explained, “You are in dire need for a narrative that can justify the futility.” The excerpts follow the major stages of the violence as experienced by the refugees: the peaceful revolution, the government’s violent response, the meat grinder of aerial assault and prison torture, the flight abroad, and the process of starting anew. The observations of Assad supporters, religious extremists, and members of foreign proxies, such as Hezbollah, are missing. But that is unsurprising: refugees are not likely to be loyalists.
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