Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Bronwen Griffiths with her book, Not Here, Not Us.

Bronwen Griffiths with her book, Not Here, Not Us.

Not Here, Not Us

Earlier this month, Bronwen Griffiths published her book of short stories and flash fiction, Not Here, Not Us, about Syrian refugees and the situation in Syria. HOT’s Zelly Restorick asked Bronwen about her interest in the conflict, her support for the refugees, the organisations she’s involved with, her inspiration for writing the book and how we can find out more about the crisis. 

“I’ve always been a social activist, both in the peace and environmental movements”, says Bronwen “and much of my writing reflects this. I became interested in the Arab Spring because, at its core it is a movement for social justice and freedom. Tragically, since the heady optimism of its early days, the movement has been ruthlessly repressed and it has also been co-opted by other groups with completely different agendas.

“After a trip to Libya in February 2011, I wrote a novel – A Bird in the House (2014) – about a family caught up in the Libyan Revolution. I made Libyan friends through Facebook, some of whom I have subsequently met in real life. As a result of my interest in Libya, I slowly began to make contact with Syrians and in 2013, I became actively involved in Syria Solidarity UK. We are a campaign group: we lobby Parliament and others, we organise actions and we work with other groups in Syria and across the world who support the aims of the Syrian Revolution.

“Because of this work, I made contact with a number of Syrian refugees both here in the UK and in Europe – and I support one particular individual in Sweden. I also have many Syrian friends on Facebook, some of whom are still in Syria.

Not Here, Not Us by Bronwen Griffiths

Not Here, Not Us by Bronwen Griffiths

Fiction based on fact

“I didn’t set out to write about Syria but I found myself drawn to the stories of those I had spoken to and met, as well as the stories of men and women I had read about. I have connected with several citizen photojournalist friends on Facebook from Syria and their pictures also inspired me.

“I found that writing in the form of flash fiction and short observations was the best way for me to record what was happening in Syria. This is the way I write anyway: I am either working on a novel or writing short pieces.

“I must make it clear that all the work is fictionalised and those who did contribute their stories read the work before publication. I also want to stress that the work is my response to the crisis in Syria and no other. However, I make absolutely no apologies for my partisan approach.”

The Syrian situation

“Since I completed the book the situation for those opposed to the tyranny of the Assad regime – a regime that has tortured, imprisoned and butchered its own people – has worsened, and it looks as if the regime, with the military support of Russia, will succeed in crushing the Revolution. Many Syrians, who have fled to Turkey, Jordan and Europe, will probably never return to their country of birth.

“Syria has been, and continues to be, one of the most serious humanitarian disasters of our generation. I am not optimistic about its future, and, like many of us, I am now deeply concerned for the future of Europe and America. I do believe that most people are, at heart, decent and moral, but globalisation, the rise of poverty and the loss of jobs has given rise to a hateful, blaming rhetoric that we must all fight against.

Hastings connection

“I began writing in the 1990’s when my son was small, although my first book, Sammie the Jam Bear, was written in 1966. It remains unpublished! After I moved to the wonderful and artistic town of Hastings in 2000, I attended a Creative Writing course at the new University building. I then went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex in 2007.

“Any of you who are writers will know how hard it is to get published, especially if your work does not fit any overly commercial category. I therefore decided to approach Earlyworks Press in Hastings to get this collection published. Kay Green at Earlyworks has been very supportive of the project and I am grateful for her help.”

Women Now For Development

“10 per cent of profits from the book will go to a women’s charity, Women Now For Development, a Syrian NGO. The organisation was established in 2012 by Samar Yazbek, a Syrian writer and journalist. The charity is the largest women’s organisation working to empower Syrian women both inside Syria and its neighbouring countries.”

Where to buy ‘Not Here, Not Us’

“You can order ‘Not Here, Not Us’ (Publisher: Earlyworks Press : 5 Dec. 2016 : ISBN-10: 1910841412 : ISBN-13: 978-1910841419) from your local bookshop or through Amazon. The book will also be available to purchase direct from me at the book launch, priced £8.50. The launch will be at the Jenny Lind on 12 January from 6.30 – 8.30 pm. All are welcome.”

Further information about Syria

For those who wish to learn more about the Syrian Revolution, Bronwen recommends the following books:

Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War. Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami. (Publisher: Pluto Press : 20 Jan 2016 : ISBN-10: 0745336221: ISBN-13: 978-0745336220.)

A Woman in the Crossfire – Diaries of the Syrian Revolution. Samar Yazbek. (Publisher: Haus Publishing : 2 July 2012 : ISBN-10: 1908323124 : ISBN-13: 978-1908323125.) 

Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline. Edited by Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen & Nawara Mahfoud. (Publisher: Saqi Books : 16 Jun 2014 : ISBN-10: 0863567878 : ISBN-13: 978-0863567872.)

The Morning They Came for Us – Dispatches from Syria. Janine Di Giovanni. (Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing : 25 Feb 2016 : ISBN-10: 1408851083 : ISBN-13: 978-1408851081.)

My House in Damascus – An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution. Diana Darke. (Publisher: Haus Publishing Limited : 3rd edition : 4 Feb. 2016 : ISBN-10: 190832399X : ISBN-13: 978-1908323996.)

Not Here, Not Us by Bronwen Griffiths

Not Here, Not Us by Bronwen Griffiths

Posted 18:19 Saturday, Dec 10, 2016 In: Literature


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Grant Padgham

    I’m sure this collection of short stories will be as excellent as Bronwen’s previous published work and a fantastic way to introduce readers to the lives of ordinary people, living through extraordinary times in Syria; a chance to highlight the bravery of the ‘Free Syrian’ people who spoke out, opposed and defended their right to freedom from the Assad dictatorship. History will judge the Free Syrian people for their incredible bravery and Bronwen’s book will be a part of that important narrative.

    Comment by Grant Padgham — Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 @ 19:35

  2. Laurance Edward

    There is some confusion here: the Farouk Brigade didn’t carry out the Adra massacres; this was carried out by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front. It is the Farouk Brigade (part of the ‘moderate’ FSA) that has the policy: ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the tomb.’ This group has put this policy into practice through its massacres of Alawites, Druze and Christians. This is the group that the “Syria Solidarity UK” supports. What does the term ‘moderate’ mean? The USA regards Nour al-Din al-Zenki as ‘moderate.’ Its fighters recently chopped the head off of the 12-year old Palestinian boy Abdullah Issa: they were videoed triumphantly waving his head in the air.
    To pick and choose as to which group is ‘moderate’ and which group isn’t is dishonest. To the Syrian people, when armed gangs take over areas, start looting, start shooting, firing rockets, start executing people (as they did in east Aleppo in 2012), it doesn’t matter if they are ‘moderate’ or not. The war against Syria has been going on for almost 6 years; the country is being destroyed. We’ve seen the billions of dollars that countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia has put into their policy of ‘regime change.’ It is to the credit of the Syrian people that they’ve held out for this long against the terrorists. Thankfully, now these mercenaries are being defeated and are in control of fewer areas, the Syrian people can get their lives back.
    In May this year, there was a meeting in Hastings (at the Friends Meeting House) where a Syrian man spoke of life in Damascus, about the diversity, the different cultures, different ethnic groups living together. The Syrian people are fighting to keep this. This is a snippet (just released) of the Syrian life that the terrorists hate so much (from a French reporter):
    Let’s hope the violent foreign-backed mercenaries don’t succeed in destroying this.

    Comment by Laurance Edward — Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 @ 17:37

  3. Bronwen Griffiths

    In response to Laurance Edward’s post I would like to point out that in the book ‘Burning Country,’ Robin Yassin-Kasab and Leila Al-Sahmi write quite categorically AGAINST the Islamist groups in Syria.
    Edward is entitled to his opinion but his post, concentrating as it does, only the Islamists, suggests he has a very particular agenda. He talks about an alleged massacre by the Farouk brigades which many sources believe never took place.
    We know that in any conflict atrocities are committed on both sides, and there are many grey areas. But to suggest that those who are fighting for freedom from Assad’s tyranny in Syria are ALL suicide bombers and head-choppers is so far from the truth, as to be almost laughable. There is evidence to suggest that Assad, in the early days of the uprising, allowed the Islamists to go free. Certainly their headquarters in Raqqa were not attacked for some time. There is no question that the biggest crimes being committed in Syria are by the Assad regime, its Russian supporters, along with its Iranian and Hezbollah militias. To suggest otherwise is to be living in an alternate reality.
    The No-Fly Zone that Syria Solidarity asked for was NOT about bombing Syria except in extremely limited circumstances. The No-Fly Zone was about protecting civilians from Assad’s aircraft and barrel bombs.
    To suggest that either myself or the Hastings On-Line Times promotes or justifies terrorism on the basis of one book mentioned is both ridiculous and defamatory.

    Comment by Bronwen Griffiths — Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 @ 14:17

  4. Mary Rizzo

    Laurance claims that there is some future bloodbath as if the bloodbath currently going on in Syria is fictional. I’m curious as to where she sets the bar of bloodbaths. As to “foreign-backed mercenaries”, this phase needs to be applied to the “loyalist” side, or as the regime likes to call them, “our allies”. Because all it takes is to glance at even the SANA news agency (State controlled) to see that running the show right alongside the regime is Russia and Iran. The Hezbollah militia aren’t even content to just recruit Lebanese men any longer – they are running out of them, and also recruit 16 year olds – has recruited Pakistanis. Yes, you can see on any regime-loyal sites the posters of “martyrs”, 34 from Pakistan the other day, quite a few from Afghanistan. They are mercenaries (pure and simple).

    Comment by Mary Rizzo — Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 @ 12:43

  5. Zelly Restorick

    Dear Laurance, Thank you for taking the time to reply – and in such detail. I appreciate and am interested to read what you have said – and will send your Comment to Bronwen to ask for her response and will post her words here online. My feeling about Bronwyn is that she genuinely cares for the Syrian refugees and those in crisis and is not a proponent, supporter or advocate of terrorism. And neither are we at Hastings Online Times. Thank you again for your response. Sincerely, Zelly.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016 @ 21:19

  6. Laurance Edward

    Some of the sources in the article are very worrying. Robin Yassin-Kassab is a known supporter of the violent foreign-backed mercenary groups. Last year when the Syrian Air Force took out Zahran Alloush, Yassin-Kassab went on record to say that he “mourned” for him. He wrote that he hoped that his death “be a thousand times avenged.” Zahran Alloush was the leader of the Salafist group Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam). Jaysh al-Islam is allied with and fights alongside the Syrian Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat Al-Nusrah. This group is one of the more vicious of the mercenary groups operating in Syria. One of the massacres it carried out was at Adra in December 2013. The group went from house to house executing residents. A doctor in the local clinic, a Christian known locally as Dr George, was taken out into the street and decapitated. Bakery workers who resisted their machinery being taken away were roasted in their own ovens.
    The “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) sent its condolences on the death of Alloush. Most Syrians will have celebrated. As for the “Syria Solidarity UK,” it supports the FSA; it also supports a NATO No Fly Zone, i.e. NATO bombing. The FSA is an umbrella group – its largest constituent is the Farouq Brigade whose policy right from the start was and still is ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawis to the tomb.’ This group has put this into practice too frequently with massacres of Alawites, Druze and Christians.
    If anyone doubts the terror that these groups of foreign-backed mercenaries instill into Syrians, this article gives a glimpse:
    If any of these groups were to take over Syria, there would be a bloodbath that we could never conceive of. It’s important to understand the role of outside forces. These groups are paid very handsomely by the Jordan-based MOC (Military Operations Command), which compromises mainly of the US and Saudi Arabia. It was recently revealed that the major training centres of the mercenaries (in Jordan) have been financed by the US to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year.
    When a coalition of the different groups recently re-took the corridor between west and east Aleppo, the media portrayed these fighters as ‘rebels,’ suggesting that these people are some sort of freedom fighters. They were led by the suicide bombers and head choppers of al-Nusrah and Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Freedom fighters they are not.
    It’s worrying that the Hastings Online Times is promoting and justifying terrorism in this way.

    Comment by Laurance Edward — Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016 @ 17:54

  7. mona khalil

    I admir what you are doing , brave syrian women, and really wanna do something like what Samar did.

    Comment by mona khalil — Monday, Dec 12, 2016 @ 16:33

  8. Zelly Restorick

    Hello Anne, I’ll research the details and add them into the post. Re price – the cost of the books seems to vary, depending on the sales outlet. Thanks for your comment. Warm wishes, Zelly.

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Sunday, Dec 11, 2016 @ 03:13

  9. Anneberth Lux

    Please add bibliographic details to 1. your book reviews and 2. your book recommendations; i.e. ISBN, publisher name, price at the very leadt.


    Comment by Anneberth Lux — Saturday, Dec 10, 2016 @ 18:58

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