The Syrian crisis began in 2011 as a popular revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, emphasizing “freedom” and “democracy” under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). By 2014, however, Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (the al Qaeda franchise), Ahrar al Sham, and ISIS were dominant in the movement, having slowly absorbed weaker FSA units and crushed the local rebel governance structures.

How did the Islamic Fundamentalists win the day in Syria? Explanations have hinged upon foreign funding, superior organization and access to the mosque as a dually religious and civic space, but each of these explanations lack systematically collected data. INCITE-affiliated researchers have gathered data on early protesters from four towns whose paths have diverged dramatically since the overthrow of the government, each now under control by a different mix of secular and fundamentalist forces. Through interviews, we will expand the data and map a variety of networks (e.g. familial, religious and resource-based) that may have influenced the paths that these early protesters, the groups they were a part of and the towns they lived in took as the movement progressed.