From IS to government control, Syrians left with few choices

Published 9:15 am Friday, January 20, 2017

SAFIRA, Syria — Carrying her four-year-old son, Elham Saleh walked all night behind a smuggler, navigating land mines through Islamic State group- and rebel-held territory in northern Syria.

Finally, they reached relative safety in Safira, a government-controlled village on the southern edge of the city of Aleppo, where they have been staying for the past two weeks.

Saleh’s husband, once a rebel fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, had joined IS but she couldn’t bear living under the group’s brutal rule any longer.

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“Once he joined Daesh, I fled with my son, and Daesh began searching for me,” said Saleh, using the Arabic acronym for IS and sitting on a couch on the floor of a house that she and her relatives are using in this village southeast of Aleppo.

She, like thousands of others who escaped, paid 60,000 Syrian pounds ($120) per person for smugglers to help them flee IS territory.