Samar Yazbek: 'Writers need to be part of the change in Syria'
' "I can't say there are peaceful protests now because there is no opportunity for them to take place. When you go out to protest and missiles are dropped on you, how do you protest? And how are they going to be peaceful?" asks Yazbek, in reference to Bashar's violent crackdown on the demonstrators.
"They tried to go out and be peaceful, but they had to take up arms and when people take up arms other people begin to profit and it becomes like an arms trade. Some people want there to be a war so they can invest and become war lords and this is how the revolution was derailed from its democratic path. However, this doesn't mean there aren't still people in Syria that aren't still working towards a democratic path. Just because their voices aren't heard and they're not backed, it doesn't mean there aren't still Syrians who believe in a democratic, civilian Syria.
On her third crossing, Yazbek helped the wife of a martyr set up a project to sell cleaning products from her home, so she could support herself rather than marrying a Yemeni fighter in exchange for money. "The women are in a bad situation but they are still operating," she says. "I believe that we, the people who left the country - and I'm really upset that we had to leave - have to be a bridge and a voice for the people of Syria. The situation of women is bad and the areas where we operate are still being bombed. They're using weapons and bombs and barrels and missiles and cluster bombs. They just destroy everything."
In the areas controlled by armed, Islamist militants women have no life she says. "They are no longer a part of the public and they're being subjected to all forms of exploitation and violation. The conditions of the Syrian women are just like the Syrian people but because they're women it's worse. Because they're Islamists they think the women are awrah [should not appear in public]. They treat women inhumanely and they've misinterpreted Islam and made up their own rules. So the women are really suffering."
Yazbek believes the Obama administration has taken a contradictory position when it comes to intervention in Syria. In August 2013 UN weapons inspectors confirmed the nerve agent sarin was used in Damascus by the Assad regime, a massacre that killed hundreds in the suburbs just outside Damascus. Obama had previously vowed this was a "red line" that would incite US intervention in Syria, but he never acted on that promise.
"There's Iranian intervention and American intervention but it's all in favour of Assad... don't you think Hezbollah's involvement is intervention?" she asks. "When Turkey allows all the fighters to go through its borders, isn't that intervention? When the armed groups are supported and backed whereas the Free Syrian Army's leaders are assassinated and not given weapons isn't that foreign intervention?"
Hopefully her book can help, after all "writers need to be part of the change" she tells me; but what does Yazbek want people to take away from it? "I don't want a lot. I want them to know that what happened in Syria was a revolution. It was a popular, civilian, democratic revolution staged by a nation that tried to call for freedom." '