I’m in Turkey interviewing members of the Syrian opposition from cities and towns in the north of Syria which are fully or partially controlled by their fighters.
The image of the Syrian opposition in the USA is of raging militants who want to establish an Islamic state. But most of the fighters are young soldiers or officers who defected because they couldn’t bear killing civilians, or else they are civilians - teachers, accountants, students, workers, farmers- who took up arms when the Syrian regime started bombing their towns.
One good example is Abdul Razak Tlas, a handsome, baby-faced 25 year old former Syrian army lieutenant from a famous Sunni family that produced a long- time defense minister. He was one of the first Syrian army officers to defect and became a hero of the Farouk brigade that defended residents of the Bab Amr district of Homs which was pounded to smithereens.
Tlas now sports a beard but he bristles when I ask him if he is a salafi, the militant believers who seek an Islamic state.