The Iraq National Museum reopened on 28 February. Many of the treasures of ancient Mesopotamia are in the British Museum or the Pergamon in Berlin, or were lost to looting after the 2003 invasion, but some wonderful objects are now on show in Baghdad. I visited last week. As I was looking at pieces of Iraq’s great civilisations in glass cases, the extremists of Daesh (as the Islamic State is known in Arabic) were smashing up the original sites for being idolatrous.
‘What do you want to do after the war?’ I ask Adnan, an amiable 18-year-old I meet in north-west Syria, in an area controlled by opposition fighters. ‘I want to continue my studies. If, well…’ He glances up at the sky. ‘If I don't die.’ Several months ago he was studying for the baccalaureate. Now he is at a training camp for new fighters preparing to join the battle against the Assad regime.
One evening on a recent trip to rural Idlib, in north-western Syria, where the opposition controls many of the villages, I sat up with Um Ali, a 32-year-old woman with four children. Her husband, a fighter in the local rebel group, comes home only to change his clothes; in his place on the bed there was a large gun with a string of bullets.