Campbell, Deborah. “A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War”, Picador, 2017.
Friendship, Courage and Terrorism
As an international crisis begins, journalist Deborah Campbell is swept up in the mysterious disappearance of Ahlam, her guide, “fixer,” and friend. This is her personal account of her journey to rescue her, and the triumph of friendship and courage over terrorism.
Our story begins in 2007 when Campbell traveled undercover to Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It was then that she met and hired Ahlam, a refugee working as a “fixer” (providing Western media with trustworthy information and contacts to help get the news out). Ahlam had fled her home in Iraq after being kidnapped while running a humanitarian centre. She supported her husband and two children through her work with foreign journalists and was setting up a makeshift school for displaced girls. She became an unofficial leader of the refugee community in Damascus and inspired Campbell by her determination to create something good while dealing with so much suffering. Ahlam soon became her friend as well as her guide. One morning Ahlam was seized from her home in front of Campbell’s eyes. Campbell was haunted by the prospect that their work together led to her friend’s arrest so she spent the months that followed trying to find her while fearing what could come next.
This is the compelling story of two women caught up in the politics behind today’s Syrian conflict. We become privy to the horror and destruction of a family and their exile to this country because of ignorant American foreign policy.
This is one story of millions of civilians whose lives are forever destroyed or deeply scarred by warfare. We read of the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion and its effect on the civilian population.