New book tells intimate stories from the war in Syria

The World
A rebel fighter sleeps with his weapon in a trench near Hama in central Syria, March 5th 2016.

A rebel fighter sleeps with his weapon in a trench near Hama in central Syria, March 5th 2016.

Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

It's called "The Morning They Came For Us" — a new book coming out in May 2016 in the US tells the stories of several individual Syrians caught up by their country’s civil war.  

Stories not only of fighting, but of torture, rape and survival.

The stories were reported and written by journalist Janine di Giovanni. Di Giovanni is currently Middle East editor for Newsweek, but she has been covering the war in Syria since the spring of 2012, when the war was just a year old.

She remembers back then how easy it was to get into Damascus. “It had this odd ambience,” she says, “of people waiting for war to begin. But at the same time ... they don’t leave. Or they try to hang on to the last possible minute.”

That makes Di Giovanni wonder about herself. “What would I do?” she asks. “Would I take my passport? Would I take my son? Would I get out at the first moment, or would you stay, because it's your home, and you just don't believe that your neighbors and towns and villages would turn on each other like this.”

Di Giovanni went to great lengths to validate the stories. She spent a great deal of time with a man who says he endured horrific torture. She heard him repeat his story many times and saw his scars. She went to two doctors to see if such suffering was possible, and whether it could have been inflicted intentionally. The doctors disagreed.  

The author brings more than 20 years experience of working in warzones to her work. Those years include some spent out of the journalism business, working with the United Nations refugee agency. “Sometimes you just feel so helpless as a journalist,” she says.