Book look: Syrians’ struggle for survival

Few Austrian journalists know Syria better than Petra Ramsauer. The reporter, who has previously released acclaimed books about the Muslim Brotherhood and young jihad fighters, visited Aleppo and other battlegrounds many times in recent years.

Ramsauer interviewed human rights activists, judges, opposition group fighters and victims of the conflict. Extracts from these conversations can be found in her new book, “Siegen heißt, den Tag überleben” which is out now by Kremayr & Scheriau. More importantly, however, are her fact checks and summary of what happened so far in the horrific war which killed over 500,000 residents.

Ramsauer underlines that 2010, one year before the conflict broke out, 90 per cent of the country’s exports went to European Union member states. Especially oil was shipped to Europe which put an embargo on the regime later on. Between 2011 and 2016, 1.2 million Syrians applied for asylum there while 35,000 volunteers joined various rebel groups in the fight against the Syrian army. Around 7,000 came from Europe. Back in 2010, Syria welcomed eight million tourists.

Ramsauer analyses how the civil war started and why it escalated. She portrays the situation of people in Dara’a where a group of teenagers sprayed anti-regime graffiti on a school wall. Ramsauer also examines why none of the various international conferences’ ceasefire agreements stood the test of time. Whereas other authors concentrate on the rise of the Islamic State which seemed unstoppable for years despite an international alliance’s air strikes and even boots on the ground, “Siegen heißt, den Tag überleben” includes a brilliant examination of how Jabhat al-Nusra evolved into one of the most feared organisations in Syria.

The author of “Muslimbrüder. Ihre geheime Strategie. Ihr globales Netzwerk” and “Die Dschihad-Generation. Wie der apokalyptische Kult des Islamischen Staats Europa bedroht” points out that not just radical Islamist groups but also Free Syrian Army troops and Kurdish units committed war crimes. She hits out at organisations like the United Nations which splashed out vast sums on their employees’ hotel bills while cooperating with regime ministries concerning donations. At the same time, Bashar al-Assad’ troops blocked food, diapers, drugs and even water from being delivered to cities like Darayya, just seven kilometres from the president’s residence. Hundreds starved in the besieged towns while thousands were tortured and murdered in camps and prisons run by the Syrian army and its infamous secret service agencies.

Ramsauer does not just focus on recent occurrences. The author also names the mistakes of Great Britain and France during colonisation and occupation. Her conclusion concerning Syria’s future is anything but optimistic due to the abysmal condition of the country but also because of people’s broken hearts and traumatised minds.

Siegen heißt, den Tag überleben. Nahaufnahmen aus Syrien
By Petra Ramsauer
Published by Kremayr & Scheriau (

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