Lindsey Hilsum is International Editor of Britain’s Channel 4 News and the author of Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution. Her biography In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War ­Correspondent Marie Colvin will be published in November.
 (October 2018)

Follow Lindsey Hilsum on Twitter: @lindseyhilsum.

IN THE REVIEW

‘I Can’t Believe I’m in Saudi Arabia’

A woman practicing driving in preparation for the end of the ban on female drivers, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 2018; photograph by Iman al-Dabbagh

Salman’s Legacy: The Dilemmas of a New Era in Saudi Arabia

edited by Madawi Al-Rasheed

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening

by Manal al-Sharif
In June the circus came to town. Nothing remarkable, you might think, except that the town was Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, where until two years ago all forms of entertainment were banned. The mutaween—the religious police—had carefully vetted the circus I attended, and the ankle-length black leggings and sparkly long sleeves of the lady with the dancing Dalmatians had passed muster, as had the body-hugging dark costumes worn by a group of androgynous flamenco-style dancers. It was a particular joy to be in the audience, watching the delight of both children and adults, oohing and aahing at the tightrope walkers and convulsing with laughter at an act involving a large poodle leaping in and out of a garbage can. In the intermission I canvassed opinion. It was a few days after women had been permitted to drive legally for the first time, and spectators understood that this was about more than the right to go to the Big Top.

The Smartphone War

Syrian refugees hiding from Turkish border guards near Afrin, northern Syria, June 2015; illustration from Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple’s Brothers of the Gun

No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria

by Rania Abouzeid

Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War

by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple
Every few seconds my iPhone lights up with new posts on a WhatsApp group linking doctors in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta to journalists in the outside world. News of Russian and Syrian government bombardment comes more or less in real time: “Before three hours in Ghouta, Russian plane tracked ambulances and hit both ambulances and hospitals.” “Dr Hamza: I have treated twenty-nine cases so far, the majority are children.” Visuals are captioned in Arabic and English: “Photos of shelters that local residents dug under their homes.” The journalists, who include correspondents from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other international newspapers, use the group to clarify the numbers of casualties and check locations of attacks, while broadcast media request Skype interviews from inside the war zone.

War of All Against All

The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy

by Yassin al-Haj Saleh, with a foreword by Robin Yassin-Kassab

The Caliphate at War: Operational Realities and Innovations of the Islamic State

by Ahmed S. Hashim
The battle against ISIS in Syria is nearly over—attacked by the regime and its allies on one hand and the US-backed coalition on the other, its leadership is on the run, and the territory it controls diminishes by the day. Elsewhere in Syria, a frequently violated, Russian-orchestrated “cessation of hostilities” is in place. The revolution failed, and the wars it spawned are either changing form or limping to a bitter, ragged, whimpering end. The lines on the map are still shifting, but although Syria may never be unified in the way it was before 2011, the Assad government, with Russian and Iranian help, is reconsolidating power in the main urban centers. New conflicts are brewing.