Understanding Syria

This seminar will explore the background, origins, evolution, and human toll of the current conflict in Syria. It will begin by situating the country in the context of modern Middle East history and examining the character of the authoritarian regime that solidified under the presidency of Hafez al-Assad (1970-2000) and then his son Bashar (2000---). It will then discuss the launch of the Syrian uprising in 2011, its subsequent militarization, the escalation to a multi-party war, the contours of mass displacement, and the current situation of the millions of civilians who have fled as refugees. In addition to examining the crucial events, actors, and issues shaping these developments, the instructor will share voices from among the more than 300 displaced Syrians who she has interviewed across the Middle East and Europe from 2012 to 2017, and whose stories she features in her the new book, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (HarperCollins 2017). As such, this will offer seminar participants a chance not only to deepen their understanding of this conflict reshaping the Middle East, but also to gain a humanistic sense of what it has been like for the ordinary people who have lived it.