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Who Are the Syrian Rebels? Aleppo Edition

From the Associated Press:

Most of the rebels fighting government forces in the city of Aleppo fit a specific mold: They’re poor, religiously conservative and usually come from the underdeveloped countryside nearby.

They bring to the battle their fury over years of economic marginalization, fired by a pious fervor, and they say their fight in the civil war is not only against President Bashar Assad but also the elite merchants and industrialists who dominate the city and have stuck by the regime. The rebels regard this support for the government to be an act of betrayal.

The blend of poverty, religious piety and anger could define the future of Aleppo, and perhaps the rest of Syria, if the rebels take over the country’s largest city, which is also its economic engine. They may be tempted to push their own version of Islam, which is more fundamentalist than what is found in the city. Their bitterness at the business class may prompt them to seek ways of redistributing the wealth.

The Aleppo rebels are fighting against both the oppressive Assad regime and against the class of wealthy Aleppo merchants that supports him. The divide is growing worse as the fighting continues: Assad’s forces shell and bomb the city on a daily basis, and the city’s residents grow more and more resentful of the rebels, whom they blame for bringing the regime’s anger down upon them.

Even if the rebels manage to topple Assad, these social divisions will remain long after he’s gone.

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