In January 2011 President Bashar al-Assad told the Wall Street Journal that Syria was 'stable' and immune from revolt. But in the months that followed, and as regimes fell in Egypt and Tunisia, thousands of Syrians took to the streets calling for freedom, with many dying at the hands of the regime.
In 'Revolt: Eye-Witness to the Syrian Uprising' Stephen Starr delves deep into the lives of Syrians whose destiny has been shaped by the state for almost fifty years. In conversations with people from all strata of Syrian society, Starr draws together and makes sense of perspectives illustrating why Syria, with its numerous sects and religions, was so prone to violence and civil strife.
Prominent American historian Noam Chomsky, recently reviewed the book and said it was a "searching inquiry [that is] painful reading, but urgent for those who hope to understand what lies behind the shocking events in Syria".
At the time of Starr's reporting, Syria was a country largely cut off from the international media.
But more than one year later, as an increasing number of journalists are finding inventing, and often dangerous, ways of obtaining information, there is no denying that Syria is a lot more complicated than we first thought, which is why the book is so interesting.
Having worked as an editor of Syria's only state-run English language paper, Starr understands why so many Syrians have, despite the horrific actions which has been taking place, cling to the al-Assad regime for stability and jobs in a region troubled by so many failed states.
The book also details why many Syrians wanted Assad's government to stay as the threat of civil war loomed large, the long-standing gap between the state apparatus and its people and why the country's youth stood up decisively for freedom. Starr also sets out the positions adhered to by the country's minorities and explains why many Syrians believe that enforced regime change might precipitate a region-wide conflict.
Stephen Starr is a freelance Irish journalist who has been reporting from Damascus since 2007. He covered the Syrian uprising for some of the world's leading newspapers and his work has been published in The Washington Post, Financial Times, The Times and Sunday Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Irish Times. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Near East Quarterly. 'Revolt in Syria - Eye-witness to the Uprising' By Stephen Starr is out now.