The major defining characteristic of civil activists across the country was their insistence on non-sectarianism and an adherence to the higher ideals of justice and freedom. The armed groups morphed like a chameleon changing colors, at the beginning justifying taking up arms to “protect the protesters” from security forces, and later on justifying their violence as a reaction to the regime’s. Any hidden agendas some of those groups may have had initially were carefully kept secret, both from society as a whole as well as media scrutiny — of course some pan-Arab media was actively complicit in this cover up — although there were some troubling tell-tale signs. As the uprising progressed, and some of those groups were armed and trained by regional and foreign powers, they adopted other agendas — usually dictated by whoever was supplying the weapons and the paychecks. They simply no longer cared and transcended the popular uprising and protests that spawned them and gave them their legitimacy, to completely dominate the revolution, and so in essence destroyed it by morphing it into a civil war with visibly sectarian dimensions — as became evident with the deliberate targeting of Shiites and Alawis, regardless of their links to the regime.
And that’s not even mentioning the more sinister of the armed groups, the Islamists, Jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates who wanted nothing less than to turn Syria into another Taliban-style theocracy. They already have their religious courts and councils set up, dispensing justice via “Sharia law.” The one in Aleppo, for example, is called the “Hai’aa Sharia,” which looks into anything from murder and rape to “morality” crimes such as drinking alcohol or wearing shorts. The worrying trend is that many locals see this as preferable to the rampant crime and lawlessness, and that helps these groups gain traction and support on the ground at the expense of the more moderate ones.
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