Charles Glass is a former ABC News Chief Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of Syria Burning and, most recently, They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France. (December 2019)

Follow Charles Glass on Twitter: @CGlassArticles.


Scheherazade in a Syrian Cell

Khaled Khalifa, Venice, 2016

In Praise of Hatred

by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price

No Knives in the Kitchens of This City

by Khaled Khalifa, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price
Khaled Khalifa is Syria’s biographer, much as Gore Vidal declared himself America’s. While Vidal gave fictional life to Aaron Burr, Abraham Lincoln, William Randolph Hearst, and other American deities, Khalifa avoids real names: no Assad, father or son, only “the President”; no Baath, only “the Party”; Alawis are “the other …

Syria: A Savage Peace

Homs, Syria, February 2016; photographs by Jerome Sessini
Workmen throughout Syria are erecting bronze, stone, and concrete statues in what the government calls “liberated areas.” Some of the monuments are newly cast, while others have been in storage since the conflict began in 2011. At that time, protesters in rebellious cities like Dera’a and Homs were desecrating the …

Syria’s New Normal

Protesters against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Hama, Syria, July 2011
And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. —Genesis 4:13 Mount Qasioun soars above the Damascus plain to a height of four thousand feet, a sheer escarpment that for millennia has borne witness to insurrection, invasion, siege, and annihilation. Mankind’s first, albeit legendary, murder …

In the Horrorscape of Aleppo

Umm Mohammed and her husband drinking coffee at their destroyed home in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, March 2017
In Damascus, shells explode in the Christian neighborhoods closest to the eastern front lines. In Aleppo, artillery batters opposition bases along the western frontier with Idlib province. Both cities’ exhausted citizens have cause to fear for their country’s uncertain future.

How Assad Is Winning

Syrian boys in the rebel-held town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, January 2017
In Damascus people call it the “million-dollar checkpoint,” although it is not one but two face-to-face roadblocks, barely a rifle shot apart. On a suburban road between government and opposition zones of control in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and their rebel enemies inspect cars, vans, and pedestrians. Their shared objective is extortion, exacting tolls on medicine, food, water, and cigarettes, as well as people, that are moving in and out of the besieged orchards and homesteads about ten miles from the center of Damascus in an area known as the Eastern Ghouta.

In the Syrian Deadlands

A Syrian man carrying his daughters across rubble after a barrel bomb attack on the rebel-held neighborhood of Kalasa in Aleppo, September 2015
Folk memories endure, mothers’ and grandmothers’ sagas trumping documents in neglected archives. What will Syria’s youth, when they are old, tell their children? All will have stories of cowering in their flimsy houses while bombs fell, of the deadening existence of refugee camps, or of escapes through treacherous seas and perilous highways to uncertain lives in strange lands.

In the Syria We Don’t Know

Supporters of Bashar al-Assad at a demonstration in Homs, May 2012
The Damascus cafés where I met young anti-Assad activists early in the uprising are now mostly empty, and their original enthusiasm has dissipated. Some organizers are in prison, others have gone into exile, and the rest have given up, as disillusioned with the rebellion as many Alawites are with the regime.