Syria's pro-democracy movement divided


New extremist contenders are jockeying for influence in the war-torn country of Syria and over its worn-out people and they're courting those from within a once united but now fractious pro-democracy movement.

Listen to a web-only interview with blogger B-Syria.

Are Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria winning the hearts and minds of Syrians through new PR campaigns?

In the battle to win hearts and minds in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo, al-Qaeda has found a new weapon: ice cream.


It would be hard to make children sound happier than at an ice-cream eating contest. Especially perhaps in Aleppo, Syria ... a city that has endured two-and-a-half years of miserable warfare.

But the organizers of this particular contest add another layer of complication. It's the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS .... Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.


The group also arranged a friendly tug of war with a rival Islamist group -- Jabhat al-Nusra -- all in an effort to win support from a war-weary public... one increasingly skeptical of the Free Syrian Army's ability to crush the forces of President Bashar al Assad.

The rise of al-Qaeda -- coupled with Hezbollah's very effective intervention on behalf of President Assad -- are alarming turns for an opposition movement that had been harbouring high hopes.

To talk about the positive "PR campaign" and the Free Syrian Army, we were joined by:

  • Milad is a Syrian pro-democracy activist who fled Syria eleven months ago. He's still in touch with friends and family there. We've agree to withhold his name to protect him.

  • Hannah Lucinda Smith is a British freelance journalist who has spent much of the past six months in Syria. She's witnessed the efforts extremist groups are making to win support from Syrians.

  • Bessma Momani has long argued that western countries should be doing more to support the Free Syrian Army. She is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario.

* As a special addition to this segment, we have a web-only interview with a blogger known as BSyria. You can listen to that conversation here.

This segment was produced by The Current's Geoff Turner, Catherine Kalbfleisch and Jessica deMello.

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