Available on Amazon. Syria: Refugees and Rebels


Click the picture to be taken directly to my book on Amazon.

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

My book is 21.6 x 21.6 cm or 8.5 x 8.5 in perfect bound softback with a laminated cover. 102 pages with an introduction of why I went to Syria as well as a brief history of the Syrian Revolution. Images are a combination of Colour and Black and White. The photos are in 3 sections, The Refugees, Life in Aleppo, The Rebels

At Peace with The Elements

I love the sea, I grew up next to it. Sailing boats are a thing of beauty for me, the way they move when under sail, the sound of the wind in the rigging as the bow kisses the waves. Hands on the wheel, sails taken in and let out as you play with the wind to find that perfect spot, poetry in motion, when the boat comes alive and surges forward as if pushed onwards by an invisible hand. There is something about sailing into the wide open void of the ocean, being out of sight of land, that brings a complete sense of your place in the universal order of things, not that we are too small to be important, but that we are a part of the universal whole.

Sailing Away

Sailing Away

Into The Void

Into The Void

Ukraine: War is coming, part 2

Maybe I should have called this post ‘How wars start by accident’

In my last post I made the Afghanistan comparison to show that in the face of a smaller less well equipped enemy the Russians could not win a decisive war. The same for Chechnya, they basically had to destroy the country and even then the Chechen militia were not finished off, in the end the Russians had to change their strategy from direct military intervention in order to bring some form of order to that country.

Ukraine is different, yes her fighting force is smaller but ironically, in many ways is better equipped than their Russian counterparts, Ukraine was until recently an exporter of arms to Russia, but they stopped exports due to the current crisis, in fact it is one of the global leaders of arms exports as its quality control and engineering is seen as being of higher quality that of the same systems which are made in Russia.

I don’t believe Russia really wants to see war in Ukraine and I don’t think the Ukrainians want war either but both sides are playing a game of Chicken, to see who will blink first, the problem with that is the mentality that one can never back down, they are going to stumble into a war that neither side really wants to have. The USA and EU are also partly to blame, they are trying to push Russia into a corner over the situation in Ukraine and that will simply make the situation worse, Putin will feel he has no choice but to come out fighting. I am no fan of Putin but I don’t believe he wants to have a war but he feels that the options left open to him are becoming fewer by the day. This is going to become an accidental war.

Consideration should also be given to the economic consequences of any war between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine is effectively broke and is only being kept going by foreign loans. How they will ever be paid back is anybodies guess. More dramatically, Russia might also get into serious trouble. There is a huge amount of capital flight, money being withdrawn from Russia, by businesses and individuals alike. Something I heard today that was very interesting is that companies have been using their shares as collateral for bank loans. I hadn’t realized this but apparently it is common practice. The problem is that the value of shares in Russian companies are plummeting due to a lack of business confidence and uncertainty about the future related to the situation between Russia and Ukraine. The banks have made loans against the value of shares and are now well into negative equity territory. The Russian banking sector is now trying to call in these loans but the cash isn’t there as much of it has already been deposited outside the country. Russia is potentially facing a full on banking crisis to rival that of the USA in 2008. Their central bank has been using its huge cash reserve to maintain liquidity in the system but the money is being used up fast. The longer uncertainty and instability continues between Russia and Ukraine, the worse the situation will become. Even if war between the 2 countries is brief, the long term consequences will be felt for a long time. The Russian banking system could effectively be bankrupted. Even without a war between Russia and Ukraine things could be about to become very difficult in the Russian banking system. If that were to happen, what would the political consequences be for Putin?

Ukraine: War is coming, part 1

This is just a short post, full analysis will come later.

Both Ukrainians and Russians seem hell bent on getting their own way, as a result they are bringing the probability of war closer on a daily basis. One thing that can be guaranteed is that ordinary people will be made to suffer as a result of stubbornness and pride shown by both sides.

Do not assume that Russia would easily win a war with Ukraine. Russia withdrew from its war with the Taliban in Afghanistan after realizing that it couldn’t defeat them. The Taliban were very basically armed compared to the then Soviet forces. Against Ukraine is a different situation, yes their military is smaller but Ukraine is a major arms supplier and those who will fight will go to the bitter end, extracting a very high price from Russia.

We live in a crazy world where the desire for power and demonstrating ego controls the actions of people who have undeserved power. They blindly lead their countries into the abyss. Watch this space.

If you are interested in knowing me a little better

I did an author interview as a way of promoting my book, Syria: Refugees and Rebels

If you are interested you can read it here or below as copied:

Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written?
I’m from the UK but am now based in Lugano, Switzerland. I’m predominantly a photographer but I also write about current affairs. In particular regarding the Middle East. I have one book, ‘Syria: Refugees and Rebels’ a photo documentary of my time in Syria as well as the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan. I’m well traveled and curious about everything. I’m intellectually curious but also mentally lazy. I can be a terrible procrastinator, leaving things to the last minute.

For me life is an adventure, not in the sense that every moment has to be full of excitement but rather it is about discovery. I really do believe in living in the moment, not in some hedonistic way but in the sense of appreciating each moment, to be happy in the moment. So many people say they will be happy when they reach a certain goal but they are so focused on that goal that they forget to be happy in the present. Life can be taken from us so easily. I have been in conflict zones, seen how one minute we are here and the next we can be gone. This is why I appreciate very much the now.

I started my passion with photography when I was 10, I think it was the fascination with being able to capture a moment in time. I got books from the library and taught myself the science behind the art and experimented with what I learnt. It was agony waiting for my pictures to come back from the lab. One of the things photography taught me was how to see light, the realization that when we look at something, we don’t see it directly but rather the light it reflects and is captured by our eyes.

As a writer, I really enjoy looking at things from a different perspective. I am well versed in the Middle East and write about events there but often from a different angle. So often the general media skims over situations or sometimes gets it plain wrong, so I like to try and give more in depth detail. The challenge is that as time goes by people seem to skim read more and more, attention spans are diminishing and most people are more interested in celebrity gossip than actual news. So I try to write in such a way that will get the information across before they lose focus. I think it is a challenge for most writers of serious subjects

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is ‘Syria Refugees and Rebels’ I was inspired to go to Syria last year because I have Syrian friends and they were all telling me that the situation on the ground is not how it is being reported in the news.

I wanted to photo document what I would see and experience. I was in Syria for a month. I then spent another month split between Lebanon and Jordan, visiting refugee camps and following the work of individuals who are trying to help the refugees. I don’t like calling them simply refugees, they are people like you and I but have been overtaken by circumstances beyond their control. They have the same hopes and desires as anybody, to have a home, a job, a family, to be able to live in security and with dignity. When we hear the word refugee nowadays we think of pathetic creatures, dirty, living in mud. So much so that they almost seem less than human. My book is about giving a voice to people who have lost so much but who are no different to you and I.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I can’t think of any, I have to be in the mood in order to write and I work much better in the morning. After a couple of hours writing I have had enough and go and do something else.

What authors, or books have influenced you?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. I first read these books when I was a kid. I learnt to read when I was 4 and I was less than 10 when I first picked these books up. As time goes by it is interesting to see how those authors were well ahead of their time. The dystopias they created are becoming ever more a reality.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on publicizing my book ‘Syria: Refugees and Rebels’ sales of the book will fund my return to the refugee camps so I can continue telling their stories.

What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Network, network, network. I also have a pretty strong platform with over 2000 followers of my blog: http://russellchapman.wordpress.com/ and more than 1200 followers of my Facebook page. I also speak at different events. The most recent was at Oxford University, there was an international conference called Refugee Voices and I was invited to show my work and talk about my experience at the closing session.

Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don’t give up if you really believe you have something to say

What is the best advice you have ever heard?
I know it is a bit of a cliche but always expect the unexpected. It has been proven true so many times

What are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading about Charles Bronson a prisoner in England who has spent 28 years of the last 30 in solitary confinement. The way he tells his story is very powerful.

What’s next for you as a writer?
I am continuing my work writing about events in the Middle East as well as Russia. There is a lot happening in the world, there is always something to write about. At the moment I’m taking a bit of a break as I am focusing on selling my newly published book but normal writing will continue in the not too distant future

If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
I would take the bible. Also a very good survival book, sometimes we need to refresh our memory on different survival situations. A book on the flora and fauna of the place I would be stranded, I would want to know more about my surrounding and what is good to eat. Finally, I would take the book Perfume, it is the most imaginatively intense book I have ever read.

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

Buy my book. Syria: Refugees and Rebels

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Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

My book is 21.6 x 21.6 cm or 8.5 x 8.5 in perfect bound softback with a laminated cover. 102 pages with an introduction of why I went to Syria as well as a brief history of the Syrian Revolution. Images are a combination of Colour and Black and White. The photos are in 3 sections, The Refugees, Life in Aleppo, The Rebels

Price in USD is $26.99 +$5 for postage. Please allow up to 2 weeks for delivery to USA/Europe, it could take longer to other countries. Click the ‘Buy Now’ button will take you to a PayPal payment page. When you arrive there, if you don’t use PayPal you can click the link ‘Don’t have a PayPal account?’ from where you will be able to pay with any major credit card.

The Political Strategy of Dehumanizing Refugees

Recently there was an international conference at Oxford University called Refugee Voices One of the themes that came out, which got me thinking, in particular with regard to my experience in Syrian refugee camps, was how there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of many countries to dehumanize refugees, to make them seem sub-human. Why is this?

There is no doubt that the global refugee situation is growing at an alarming rate. People are having their lives shattered by war, by brutal political regimes that care more about holding on to power rather than actually wanting to be a government for the people. As a result, many people are looking to escape but as is the case, very few are permitted to settle in another country. I admit that there simply isn’t the space to take all the refugees. It is a very big problem. However, rather than governments working together to address the situations that cause so many to become refugees they simply close the door, refuse to deal with the root causes and instead use the media as well as government policy to reduce the refugees to a sub-human level.

If we look at the media in general, and I focus on this with regard to Syria as this is where my experience lays, we see how Syrians are portrayed as either blood thirsty animals or pathetic creatures covered in dirt, living in the mud. Over time, given enough exposure we begin to think of them as being not quite human, somehow of lesser value than us. In so doing we become less inclined to want to have any of these people living in our country. And because we are being conditioned to view them as being of lesser value than us, it gives rise to the justification of how they are treated, the conditions they are forced to live in. This serves our governments well. If the population can be trained to think of refugees as sub-human then the population wont put any pressure on the governments to resolve the situations that cause the refugee crisis in the first place. It is a very powerful piece of social engineering. The fact is, we also see this happening in our own societies, those who are unfortunate enough to live on the edges, for whatever reason, are seen as having no value to society and therefore can be treated like animals. We see how cuts are made to any available help they could get in the past. Then there was the shocking video of the police murder of a homeless man in Albuquerque, shot in the back and then shot again when he was laying prone on the ground. Would that have happened if he were a ‘respectable’ member of society?

Coming back to Syria, specifically when I was in Zaatari camp in Jordan, I happened to be there the day a Syrian family tried to escape the camp, normally they would have to pay the camp guards if they want to move out. The camp security guards went after them in armoured trucks, caught them and brought them back. They then started to mistreat one of the women of the the family. Obviously the men tried to defend her, which simply brought in more camp security and the situation very quickly got very big and very ugly. As a result all food, water and medicine for the camp was cut off for 2 days as a way to send a message, this is what happens if you try to escape. This is what happens when we allow refugees to be dehumanized, they can then be treated however badly we wish and nobody will raise an eyebrow.

After I finished my presentation at the conference, of which my experience above was a part, I was approached by someone who said I had portrayed the Jordanians as monsters. This person then went on to say to me that it is the Syrian refugees who are the problem and they would do anything possible to get rid of them. Even as far as giving them a piece of Jordan if that were possible, but something to remove them from Jordanian daily life. I want to clarify here that I have good friends in Jordan who genuinely care about the refugees and one even wanted to volunteer to help in Zaatari but he was refused. I have nothing against Jordanians in general. I simply repeated what I saw, which was how they are being treated as less than human.

The simple fact is that if we think of refugees and others who are on the edge of society as less than human then it is much simpler to ignore them and also avoid resolving the situations which cause these problems in the first place. At the end of my presentation I was very clear about this. The root cause is due to the fact that the global political system is not only broken, it is rotten. As long as it continues, then situations like Syria will continue to happen, many more people will find themselves living on the edge of society and it wont only be in countries far away. As time goes by this situation is going to get much closer to home.

A potential new war? Updated

This is based solely on what I have been hearing over the last few months from various directions. What I have been hearing is that the risk of war between Turkey and Syria is growing rapidly. I could be wrong, but the information I am getting is coming from so many diverse sources that it is starting to make me wonder. Watch this space.

Here is an update to fill in a few details. All the indications are that Turkey would start the conflict. Turkey has many of its own domestic problems and the Erdogan government is becoming more belligerent as time goes by. The government is also trying to fan the flames of nationalism. If and probably when Iranian backed Assad wins the war in Syria then the Iranian sphere of influence will be greater and the balance of power in the middle east will be fundamentally different. Turkey has a majority Musilim Sunni population and it will feel its security is undermined by the Shia of Iran who will in fact be running Syria with Assad as little more than a vassal ruler. The northern border territories of Syria would make a good buffer zone against this threat and the indications are that Turkey would seek to take control of areas in the north of Syria, Similar to what Israel did when it captured the Golan heights.

As I said before, these are things that I have been hearing more frequently over the last six months that when the revolution in Syria is finished there will then be war between Turkey and Iranian back Syria.