Targeted by Islamists, Secular Rebels Flee Syria

With Secular Fighters on the Decline, Activists Have Less Protection

It’s been so long ago, it’s easy to forget that the Syrian Civil War began with peaceful protests. Now those organizers and human rights activists that initially called for the ouster of Assad are finding a rebellion that they recognize less and less, and that has less and less use for them.

Fleeing Assad-held territory, such activists took refuge in the rebel-held north. But as secular rebel fighters lose what little influence they have left, the activists are fleeing Islamist-dominated territory.

Reporters Without Borders and other groups have detailed scores of activists “detained” by al-Qaeda, and at least 150 were reported to have fled the country outright.

That reflects an ongoing shift in the nature of the war, from liberal protesters to military defectors to foreign jihadists dominating the opposition, and the goals of the ongoing war becoming less and less clear.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of