Tauseef Ahmad | Two Circles
A class 11 student from India hopes to bring a new level of awareness to the Syrian Civil War with her debut novel, ‘When the Sky Wrote Back’. The book has been published by Delhi-based Bluerose Publishers and is 341 pages long.
The author, Mariyam Imbisat, is a 16-year-old student at Azaan International School in the Indian city of Hyderabad. The teenage writer created the character of Noor Ahmar, a young female journalism student from Egypt who travels to Syria undercover to report for a news organisation. The novel depicts the horrors of war, including bombardment, starvation, and fear, as well as the character’s range of emotions.
The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing conflict that started in the Middle Eastern state in March 2011. The United Nations Human Rights Office estimated in 2022 that 306,887 civilians – 1.5% of the total pre-war population – were killed between March 2011 and March 2021 due to the conflict. Since then, the number of dead has just gone up.
In addition to the bloodshed, more than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million have had to flee their homes.
Imbisat says she chose the character of a journalist because she believes in the power of journalism. “The journalists have the power to express the voice of voiceless people, especially in times of conflicts,” Imbisat told Two Circles.
According to Imbisat, the late Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Aklah inspired the choice of a young Muslim woman journalist as the main character. Aklah was slain in 2022, allegedly by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
Imbisat states that through Ahmar’s journey, she hopes to spread “the message of humanity” to people all across the world. The novel raises awareness of human rights violations and killings through the character’s accounts, as well as advocates for change.
“The story was made for Syria but it has a lesson for the whole world,” she said.
Imbisat began writing the novel four years ago, when she was just twelve years old, as a diary in which she documented Ahmar’s daily life.
“It was difficult to write about something so sensitive like the Syrian war. I used to spend hours reading about conflicts in the world. I was imagining all the scenes in my head,” she added.
Imbisat says she had unwavering support from her parents while she was writing the novel and her mother who is a school teacher helped her regularly with the novel and even helped finding a publisher. The book took more than a month to be edited and published.
The novel concludes with the killing of the young journalist, as Imbisat writes, ‘the young journalist was silent but was not blind’, and all of Ahmar’s recordings and images were released to the world days after her death.
The novel is available online and priced at INR 340.
Tauseef Ahmad is an independent reporter based in Kashmir, India.