The front lines of the Syrian Civil War trace through alleys and ancient streets in the Old City of Aleppo. Defending these lines are young men, most less than two decades old, carrying AK-47s and homemade grenades. They have no military training and will not wear body armor for fear of delaying the time of death anointed for them by Allah. They are kids and recent college graduates who picked up guns for their country and, most of all, for revenge. All have lost friends and family to Assad.

These young men are warmhearted and hospitable, but daily burdened and degraded by the fighting. Every fighter I met had a different story that brought him to Aleppo; this project attempts to tell those stories.

1

Muhammed (Nickname: “Doctor”) - 19

Muhammad was a student of computer technology, but had to suspend his studies because of the war. He fights for a Free Syria because he was thrown in prison and tortured after protesting against Assad, and because his house was hit and destroyed by a mortar. After Syria returns to peace, he hopes to finish his studies and maybe work in the new Syrian Army to rebuild the country. “What the people want will be. Injustice will not stay.”

2

Muhanmen Othman - 18

When the uprising started, Muhanmen was an activist who protested against Assad's government. As the war dragged on, he and his friends lost patience with the regime and joined fighters with the Free Syrian Army. Speaking about Bashar Assad, Muhanmen says, "He doesn't listen. He just kills and takes people to prison. We will win or die."

3

Abu Abdula - age unknown

Abu is fighting for his family, and for Syrian soil. He thinks Bashar Assad and his government are terrible for the people of Syria and the nation's future. He is spurred to continue fighting because of how Assad and his forces have killed Syria's Muslims and defiled the mosques they occupy with sexual intercourse and the consumption of alcohol.

4

Ali - 18

Ali's 21-year-old brother was killed early in the war. Ali fights for Jihad because "there is no god but Allah."

5

Makmood - 19

Before the war, Makmood worked with metal, in construction, and sold cars. He fights in the FSA for the defense of Islam. Recently injured by a mortar landing in his house, Makmood now has a piece of shrapnel in his torso and his finger is badly infected. He speaks very little English, but wants move to America someday. However, his expectations are tempered by the reality of daily life in Aleppo; he remarked calmly, "maybe after the war, I won't be alive."

6

Ahmed Aburadwon - 19

Ahmed joined the fight in Aleppo because of the atrocities visited on Homs, Hama, and the rest of Syria. He blames Assad for the indiscriminate killing of Syria's children and elderly.

7

Abd al-Kader (“Servant of God”) - 17

Abd is one of the fighters holding the front lines in the battle for the Old City of Aleppo. Often on guard duty and rarely sleeping, he has been fighting as part of the Free Syrian Army for just over two months. He moved to Aleppo to fight with his father and considers himself on Jihad.

8

Muhammad (Nickname: “Hammer”) - 19

Muhammad fought with regime forces for a mere three months before defecting in August. He says he left because he was treated poorly. He now fights with the Free Syrian Army on Jihad.

9

Joseph - 18

As a protester before the war, Joseph was twice imprisoned by the Assad regime. He first joined the Free Syrian Army in his hometown of Al Bab, where he fought for eight months. He fights for freedom, liberty, and against the injustices of the regime. After the war is won, Joseph wants to continue on Jihad outside Syria and take back the Golan Heights.

10

Abu Abbas Mokmood - 19

With four years remaining in his engineering studies, Abu Abbas joined the Free Syrian Army in the fight against Assad. He fights for the freedom and liberty of Syrian people, who he feels have been too long living under the oppression of Assad's government. He knows too many people from the cities of Mara and Idlib that have died -- some from bullets, others mortars, and others jets. When the war is over he hopes to continue his studies.

11

[Name withheld] - 20

Before the war, he worked in a big tech company. He's fighting against injustice and is on Jihad. After the war, he wants to take back the Golan Heights.

12

Abraham - 20

Abraham still lives in Al Bab and travels to the city for brief periods to fight alongside his friends in the Free Syrian Army. He joined the resistance because life was oppressive and unaffordable for people in his city before the war. He is upset that so many Syrians are political prisoners, and wants to topple the regime of Bashar Assad for himself and his family.

13

Ana - 19

Ana is from Aleppo, where he studied Islam. He is on Jihad.

14

Tamer - 18

When the war started, Tamer was studying accounting at a university in Aleppo, something he hopes to continue after the war ends. Tamer joined the fight against Assad to defend Syria. When the war ends he wants peace for his country.

15

Becker - 19

Arrested and tortured at the beginning of the revolution for protesting against the Assad regime, Becker is now on Jihad for the Muslims of Syria. Before the war he was a high school student, but left his studies to join the FSA. His parents didn't approve of him fighting at first, but are proud of him now after he explained how his religious convictions motivate his struggle. He is one of the most respected members of his militia, and his fellow fighters sometimes refer to him as their prince.