June 20, 2013

How Syria's Islamists Govern

Oliver Holmes & Alexander Dziadosz, Reuters

AP Photo

"They want an Islamic state, but most of us want a civilian state," the boy said. "We're afraid they're going to try to rule by force."

As he finished his sentence, the same white car roared back round the corner. This time two men, both in balaclavas and holding Kalashnikov assault rifles, stepped out.

"Painting is forbidden here," one fighter said. The graffiti was too close to the group's headquarters. One of the boys made a brief, almost inaudible protest.

"We're sorry," the fighter said. "But painting is forbidden." His comrade stroked his long beard and said: "We are not terrorists. Don't be afraid of us. Bashar is the terrorist."

The encounter captures an important shift underway in rebel-held Syria.

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TAGGED: Syria, Islamists

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