Saturday, March 25, 2017

Deborah Campbell: A Disappearance in Damascus; an appearance in South Surrey

Thursday evening Aldergrove-born journalist Deborah Campbell returned to her home turf in the Fraser Valley. Hosted by Semiahmoo Arts, she discussed her book, A Disappearance in Damascus.

Upon arriving in the Syrian city to report on the devastation and the flood of war refugees flowing from Iraq after the 2003 invasion, she made contact with a "fixer," an Iraqi woman who worked tirelessly for the refugee community in "Little Baghdad." Ahlam was a strategic connector who helped get news out by introducing local people to journalists from BBC, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

The book tells the story of how the fearless Ahlam was spied on, followed and finally snatched, in front of Deborah Campbell's eyes. Fearing that her journalistic digging is at least in part responsible for Ahlam's disappearance, she risks her own safety in an effort to find her friend.

When another journalist asks her to leave after sleeping one night in her Damascus apartment, Campbell realizes that "Trouble is a contagious disease."

Fluent in Arabic, and with years of experience living in several Middle Eastern countries, Deborah Campbell feels a profound attachment to this part of the world. She finds it heartbreaking to see how as "proxy wars" flood the region with weapons, the violence escalates.

Before 2003, said Campbell, there was no Al Quaida in Iraq. She also revealed the dire long-term consequences of disbanding of the Iraqi army. When militarily trained men, deprived of employment and hope, were thrown together with a few religious fanatics in an American-run prison, all had plenty of time to air their grievances. The founding of ISIS was the result.

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