The uneasy normal of 'Free Syria'
The territory between the northern city of Aleppo and the Turkish border is firmly under rebel control, but aerial attacks from the Syrian Army leave residents far from safe.
(Monitor correspondent Tom Peter spent a week and a half making daily trips into rebel-held territory in northern Syria to report on Syrian Air Force bombings of bread lines and demonstrations; makeshift refugee camps along the Turkish border; the rebels' plea for a safe zone; rebel efforts at self-governance; the Free Syrian Army's weapon shortages and scores of recent defectors; and the deep divides growing within Syrian society, which have put even brothers on opposing sides.)Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Crossing the border into Syria without the government's consent once meant ducking under a lonely stretch of border fence and navigating mine fields.
That's still the case in most places. But at one crossing on the northern border with Turkey, near the town of Kilis, that's all changed. A sign now hangs over the entrance to the Syrian side welcoming visitors to "Free Syria." Border workers register and stamp everyone's passport with their own stamp.
Since fighting erupted in the northern city of Aleppo in late July, the opposition's Free Syrian Army (FSA) has pushed government troops out of the territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border, gaining control over a corridor roughly three quarters the size of Rhode Island. The opposition has now established fledgling local governments that do everything from subsidizing bread to running criminal courts and prisons.
In many parts of this Free Syria, life almost seems normal. Less than a 10-minute drive from some of the hardest fighting in Aleppo, markets are open – albeit with a majority of shops indefinitely shuttered – and on side streets men sit outside in plastic chairs drinking tea and watching their children play.