A Disappearance in Damascus

Category: Book
By (author): Campbell, Deborah
  NON-FICTION / Canadian
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Published: August 2016
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 320

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*We rarely hear the stories of women's courage in the face of danger. This riveting true story of a remarkable relationship between 2 women--the award-winning Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell and Ahlam, an Iraqi woman working as a "fixer" for Western media in Syria as it plunges into war--reveals as much about the universal power of friendship as about the courage of those who bring us our daily news.
     In 2007, Deborah Campbell, known for her "lion-hearted" reporting on international conflicts, travels undercover to Damascus on assignment to Harper's to report on the exodus of Iraqi refugees into Syria following the fall of Baghdad. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working in Damascus as a "fixer"--providing Western media with information and trustworthy contacts to get the news out. Ahlam, a charismatic woman who fled to Syria after being kidnapped for her work running a humanitarian centre in Iraq, uses the income to support her husband and 2 children and to run a "one-woman NGO," helping orphans and widows and starting a school for teenaged girls. Using skills she honed in Iraq, Ahlam has become a leader of a rag-tag group of war survivors. Campbell comes to love Ahlam's selflessness, resourcefulness and optimism. But the Syrian Secret Police are watching. The morning they seize Ahlam, Campbell is forced to watch, unable to stop them. Fearing that her work with Ahlam has led to her friend's kidnapping, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find Ahlam--all the while fearing she could be next.
     The story of the eventual reunion and the continuing friendship between 2 brave women from very different cultures is a rare one. And Campbell, a brilliant journalist, simultaneously provides invaluable behind-the-scenes insights into the roots of the wars enveloping Syria and Iraq, the ways fear begets violence, and in a world run this way, how easy it is to lose yourself.
Biographical NoteDEBORAH CAMPBELL has spent the past decade reporting from such places as Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Colombia, Cuba and Russia. Much of her work is "immersive journalism" that involves living among the societies she covers. Her award-winning articles have appeared in Harper's, The Economist, The Guardian, New Scientist, Foreign Policy and The Walrus, among others, and she is the recipient of 3 National Magazine Awards. She has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Berkeley and Zayed University in Dubai, the Munk School of Global Affairs, the Liu Institute for Global Issues, and the National Press Club in Washington. She is a frequent commentator on Middle East issues on CBC's The Current and for the New York Times. She currently teaches at the University of British Columbia.