Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Amid Civil War, Journalist Returns To Syria To Trace Family History

Author Alia Malek, "The Home That Was Our Country."
Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos
Author Alia Malek, "The Home That Was Our Country."
Amid Civil War, Journalist Returns To Syria To Trace Family History
Amid Civil War, Journalist Returns To Syria To Trace Family History GUEST: Alia Malek, author, "The Home That Was Our Country"

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh the Trump administration policy on immigration continues to evolve. The US is now warning that the rain of Syrian President Asad is coming to an and. That remarks came today during a meeting of the G7 nations where the fate of Syria is at the top of the agenda without reality as a backdrop civil rights attorney is out with a new book which tells the personal and political story of her journey back to Damascus during the early years of the Civil War. It is a record of both family history and the forces that are tearing the country apart. It is called the home that was our country a memoir of Syria. Welcome to the program Is always maneuvering goes on your thoughts must go to the people that you actually know in Syria. I think as they fell through this entire process. A lot of folks feel that it is not particularly in their hands the ones that are still inside Syria. The ones that decided to take to the sea and the exercised a little bit of agency there. I think for people that are still inside Syria they feel that their fates are in the hands of themselves. During the Arab spring he decided to go back to his Damascus. At that time and many were giving out and fleeing the area why did you decide it was a good time to return. Throughout my childhood had gone frequently and as an adult I went frequently I was never able to work. Both of these occupations are hazardous for your house and. When my times in Syria revisits. There were something that lacked any kind of permanency to them. When it became clear that things were going to change in the Middle East after decades of stagnation I decided I wanted to be the because it felt like the region was on the cusp of something and it felt like Syria might be on the cusp of something and I was optimistic at the time and I wanted to be there and I thought that sort of storytelling I would be better situated than other folks to kind of process what is going on is someone who is intimately familiar with that and also as somebody who has studied its history and studied the politics for a long time and that we were renovating my grandmother's house and it was a way that I sort of for all of the questions that would be coming at me such as why would he be coming here when people asked her starting to think about getting out. To define the relatives were as hopeful as you are that things would change for the better. There were people who were optimistic and hope. Some of those for younger folks who did not really see the machine that was connected to the regime. People who believe the message of modernization that the new president and his wife seemed to project. There was also a lot of conscious optimism and pessimism given that people who are a little bit older and familiar with what this machine has done on to hold onto power in the past and what that would mean for people who might try to challenge its power. People in the region had become intimately aware of is what happens in the vacuum of these strongmen in the kind of stability that they can offer is suddenly withdrawn.. He was okay with letting him stay in power a couple of weeks ago. That was demonstrated by the travel dance. Dear expect that emphasis and that concerns change now? Anything is possible. I do not want to presume to know what is in his heart and his mind but if I were to evaluate the sincerity of his statements in terms of empathy and outrage that he was feeling I would look at what he has said in the past about Syrians and the travel ban and the willingness to use Syrians as a kind of looking and first on the campaign trail to drum up votes so my place is wait and see. What does that look like. That was very much depend on what that looks like That's not up to me to have an opinion of that. The questions I more interested in asking is there a way to bring the stakeholders and powerbrokers a way to resolve this politically and diplomatically. I do not see any solution cannot involve his removal. So you see that intervention as diplomatic rather than military. I'm interested to see what comes out of the conversation. I actually care about the collateral damage. I care about the destruction of the Syrians and institutions. I do care about the framing of the societal fabric. These are things I am much more invested in as opposed to.'s arms and what day he is finally forced from power. How confident are you that you will be able to return from -- to Syria Sunday. That is a tough question at the moment I am writing this book and but even asserting that the history of Syria is not just about either the ruling family or the military people who want to inherit the country is so subversive and that is obviously very painful and at the moment I am not looking any plane tickets. Thank you so much. Thank you.

As the debate over the U.S. strategy in Syria continues, a Syrian-American journalist is sharing her family’s history in Syria to tell a more nuanced story about her ancestor's home and the forces that are tearing it apart.

In her new memoir, “The Home That Was Our Country,” author and civil rights attorney Alia Malek, documents her journey back to Damascus at the start of the Syrian civil war to trace her family’s roots and reclaim her grandmother’s apartment.

Malek, who was born in Baltimore to Syrian-immigrant parents, introduces readers to the people who have experienced years of unrest, while mapping out the geopolitical landscape of the region.

She joins Midday Edition Tuesday to discuss her new memoir and the Syrian war, which has now entered it's 7th year.