ALEPPO, Syria — The schism between civil activists and armed revolutionaries is at its widest since the Syrian uprising began, and it’s only getting worse. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but the most important one is expectations — what each side hoped the uprising would achieve. For the civil activists, it was the overthrow of tyranny and the establishment of a secular, civil and democratic society. For those who took up arms, it was basically a many pronged power struggle; class, sectarian or opportunistic, depending on which spectrum of the armed groups they belonged to.
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.