Proof of Life
Daniel Levin was at his office when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? Would he? So begins a suspenseful, shocking, and at times brutal true story of one man’s search to find a missing person in Syria over twenty tense days. Levin, a lawyer turned armed-conflict negotiator, uses his extensive contacts to chase leads throughout the Middle East, meeting with powerful sheikhs, drug lords, and sex traffickers in his pursuit of the truth. He also discovers remarkable people who retain their essential goodness and spirit in the face of adversity.
In Proof of Life, Levin dives deep into a shadowy world where few have access—an underground industry of war where everything is for sale, including arms, drugs, and even people. He offers a fascinating study of how people use leverage to get what they want from one another and where no one does a favor without wanting something in return, whether it’s immediately or years down the road.
Proof of Life is a fast-paced thriller wrapped in a memoir, a must-read for anyone interested in power dynamics, international affairs, the Middle East, or our growing number of forever wars.
“Truly thrilling. Daniel Levin brilliantly conveys both the menace and the evil of Middle Eastern intrigue, and some victories of human kindness over cruelty and despair.”
—Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and New York Times bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow
“Adroitly navigating myriad cultures, linguistic barriers, and dangerous situations, Levin enlists the help of both influential and ordinary men and women to determine the whereabouts of a person who vanished in Syria. Proof of Life shows that individuals can and do make a difference in the face of profound adversity. In laying bare the raw human toll of the ferocious and cruel Syrian conflict, Levin asks the reader to make a choice between cynicism and compassion for Syria and all those who continue to suffer – the orphans, the widows, the young girls sold into trafficking rings, the lost generations.”
—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, New York Times bestselling author of Infidel
“For much of the last decade, Syria has been proclaimed the world’s ‘worst humanitarian disaster,’ but for most of us its horrors are so far removed from our daily lives that those words mean little. Nobody can say that after reading this gripping book by Daniel Levin.”
—Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group, and New York Times bestselling author of Us vs. Them
“Daniel Levin is a rarity — one of those people who knows how the world really works—and his pulsating tale of a hostage rescue mission in the badlands of the Middle East is in a genre of its own.”
—Tom Wright, New York Times bestselling author of Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
“Proof of Life is a true James Bond story for our time, whose hero carries a voice recorder instead of a gun. The portraits of Beirut and Dubai, and the horrors of the Syrian war are devastating.”
—Helen C. Epstein, author of Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror
“Daniel Levin tells the story of Syria’s complex web of armed groups, political interests, and social issues through the lens of a single story. Few books capture the depth of Syria’s tragedy and the human dimension like Proof of Life.”
—Vali Nasr, Professor of Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and New York Times bestselling author of The Shia Revival
“Like a true-life Graham Greene novel, Proof of Life is the behind-the-scenes story of intrigue, danger, kidnapping, and negotiation inside Syria’s brutal civil war. How do wars really look up close—and how can they end? Daniel Levin has brought years of political experience to write a book that moves from Beirut to Istanbul to New York and Paris effortlessly like the best of all thrillers—and that illuminates one of the most complicated and tragic conflicts in modern history.”
—Janine di Giovanni, Senior Fellow, Yale Jackson Institute, and National Magazine award-winning author of The Morning they Came for Us
“From the first to final page, I couldn’t stop reading Daniel Levin’s new book. Proof of Life is so much more than the gripping story of a search for a man missing in the Syrian nightmare. It is a penetrating portrait of how the Middle East operates through webs of power, subjugation, and manipulation that ultimately dehumanize all but a special few. As Gabriel commanded Prophet Mohammed to “read,” so too does Daniel Levin compel us to read this book.”
—Karen Elliott House, former Managing Editor at The Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and author of On Saudi Arabia
“Daniel Levin’s account of his search for a missing person in Syria goes beyond exposing the tragedy of this decade-long war. It uncovers the exploitation of the most vulnerable and the depravity of those responsible. Yet Proof of Life also offers a glimpse of an alternative, beautiful outcome when a few people decide to help. A must-read!”
—Hala Al-Dosari, recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism and Freedom House’s Freedom Award
“It is rare to understand the Middle East and the Gulf so accurately, including the West’s hypocrisy and the emptiness of these skyscraper cities, in which some people help sincerely, while others, who share our blood, are so willing to shed it. Daniel Levin got it all right in Proof of Life.”
–Alaa Al-Siddiq, Executive Director of ALQST for Human Rights