A Valley At WarThe Orontes River valley, where Sunnis and Alawites lived in harmony for generations, illustrates Syria's emerging sectarian divide.
Al Tamana al Ghab
Suqur al-Sham, a rebel brigade with Islamist ideology led by Abu Issa, is based here. The group sometimes coordinates with Jamal Maarouf's Martyrs of Syria Brigade, featured in Syria Behind the Lines.
Rebels pushed the Syrian army from this Sunni village to the other side of the Orontes River in 2012, but the army routinely fires shells and mortars at the rebel stronghold. Kansafra is the hometown of Ahmad, a rebel soldier featured in Syria Behind the Lines.
Residents of this town, sometimes called the "conscience of the revolution," have garnered attention for their cheeky protest signs. Often sarcastic and laden with pop culture references, the signs are sometimes written in English and intended for an international audience. More can be found on a town Facebook page.
What used to be a fertile ground for farmers is now a virtual no-man's land, just 400 meters from a Syrian Army checkpoint.
Interactive Map: A Valley At War
Follow @WmRockwoodApril 9, 2013, 9:43 pm ET
The Orontes river valley tells the story of Syria. Here, neighbor is fighting neighbor.
For generations, the Alawites and Sunnis in the valley had lived peacefully, even during the first year of the Syrian uprising. But as the revolution entered its second year, divisions arose.
Today, on one side of the Orontes river, the rebel Free Syrian Army holds Sunni villages whose residents are calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad. On the other side, less than a mile away, villagers from Assad’s Alawite minority remain fiercely loyal to the government and gladly host army checkpoints that fire shells and mortars into neighboring Sunni villages. This map tells the story of the people who live and fight on both sides of the frontline, neighbors now divided by religion, ideology and the river that runs between them.
Data on the sectarian makeup of the Orontes River valley was collected by Syria consultant researcher and Harvard graduate student Patrick Johnson through field interviews.
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