Syrian refugees no longer know who is fighting let alone who is winning

The Guardian reports: Lugging three plastic sacks full of clothes, Abu Mohammed and his three daughters pulled back the wrought iron border crossing gate, stepped through it into Turkey and smiled.

As one daughter wept tears of relief, her father recounted their 12-hour journey from Aleppo, through some of the most terrifying and volatile scenes of the Syrian civil war.

“It was miserable,” he said, his eyes haggard from the stress and the relentless two weeks of aerial bombardment that preceded it.

“At every checkpoint along the way, we didn’t know who was in charge. There was The Islamic State of Iraq in Sham [Isis, a name given to the main al-Qaida group in the north – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], the Free Syria Army, the Islamic Front. It changed every few miles.”

The family had woken early last Friday, sensing the latest outbreak of violence to ravage the north meant a hope of escape. For one week prior, the myriad fighting groups that make up the opposition had been at each other’s throats from Idlib in the north-west, to Raqaa several hundred miles east.

Isis, which had steadily been enforcing a religious tyranny across a broad swath of land, had been ousted from many of its strongholds and was being surrounded in others.

The fratricidal fighting erupted several weeks before a much-anticipated detente scheduled for 22 January in Geneva, adding another layer of complexity to a war that long ago ceased to have two clear-cut protagonists.

“It’s not clear who is winning,” said Abu Mohammed. “It’s not even clear who is fighting. What really matters to us is that we could finally leave.” [Continue reading…]

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