It is very rare that a person comes across a book that surprises and makes them lose their words. This book did that for me. A number people I know who have read it also experienced the same thing.
In summary, Samer the writer is a 24 year old male university student originally from Raqqa in Syria. He has grown up surrounded by the violence of the Assad regime and presently Daesh (or ISIS), and the novel is about him escaping and standing up to these villains. The novel wasn’t easy to publish; Samer had to encrypt many messages to the UK and go through many third parties in order to keep his identity and family safe. The saddest thing about this story is: we don’t know his real name or whether he is safe now. He could be alive or dead. That’s the scary part.
I cannot stress enough how important this book is and I urge everyone to read it. I only knew about the horrors of Syria through the news, which chooses to report on issues that are less important or always against ISIS. Samer talks about the devastation caused by Western airstrikes on Aleppo and Raqqa, which has made me realise that rather than bombing the hell out of that country, we need to help their society fight back for themselves and save the innocent. The novel has opened my eyes to the real innocent lives of those Syrians living in wartorn areas scared that today might be their last. No human should ever live in fear of being publicly beheaded or kidnapped and tortured in order to promise that they are practising the ‘true’ (Daesh enforced), Islam.
What makes this book interesting is the background of the author, he was an average joe, as normal as you or I. He wasn’t rich and therefore found it easy to get his work published, he was forced to leave university, look after his family, work as often as he could to provide for his family. He was forced to flee Raqqa by his mother. There are no images, instead, it is presented and published in a graphic novel form with basic line drawings of several important events that take place throughout. Less is more. It certainly packs the punch.
The Raqqa Diaries is currently in being sold in hardback but soon it should be released in paperback, but whatever format you are able to get your hands on please please read this book. Everyone needs to know and understand that the terrors of Syria do not stop at what we see in the media, they are much worse and need to be stopped. The more we can learn, the more we can help. I thank Samer from the bottom of my heart for risking his life to let us know what he and many others have been through and are going through.