Faez al Sharaa

He was walking to work in his hometown of Daraa, the southern Syrian city where the protests against President Bashar al-Assad first erupted. For young civilians like Faez, now 28, leaving the house in the spring of 2013 had become a game of Russian roulette. Dozens were dying each day in the civil war between Assad’s forces and antigovernment insurgents. The ancient farming town of Daraa had become a grisly battlefield. Dissidents had disappeared. Children had been plucked off the streets for suspected anti-government activities, only to be tortured by authorities.

On that Tuesday morning in late March, Faez was confronted by a group of Syrian army soldiers. They were looking for a man who had been spotted with a handgun. Faez and three others were detained and accused of being terrorists. Standing at gunpoint, his hands in the air, he recalls feeling furious with himself for risking the solo walk to work. “We felt death upon us, and we accepted it,” he says now. “I can’t describe it in words.”


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