DAY 951 - OCTOBER 15, 2013
In response to threats of Western intervention, the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-regime hackers, breaks into the websites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, Twitter, CNN, TIME Magazine, Global Post, and the US Marine Corps. Russia denies that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attacks, attesting that it was a false flag planted by jihadist rebels. After much deliberation, the United States and the Syrian government reach an agreement that allows international inspectors to start destroying Assad's chemical weapons by way of a deal brokered by the Russian Federation. Two more journalists are kidnapped near Al Raqqa and the Turkish border, dissuading more journalists from entering the country and consequently bringing the international coverage of the conflict to a halt. Thirteen rebel factions in Syria, break off from the FSA-backed Syrian National Council and form the Islamic Coalition, which further fractures the aims of the already disjointed Syrian opposition.
ISIS has been slowly expanding their regional control towards Deir Ez Zor to the south and Azaz and Ad Dana to the northeast. Their unity and ambition clearly has the momentum over the piecemeal FSA fighters. But worst yet is that you see the way they are gaining support. You see how they take the impoverished youths in Al Raqqa and give them a home, a community, and a mission. They are doing it to your son, right now. ISIS is also manifesting a pervasive branding strategy that includes plastering Salafist symbols, the Tawhid flags, on everything from birthday cakes to iPhone cases. It's unavoidable. The next time you see Emad he is on the back of one of the older boys' motorcycles. He is smoking a cigarette. He is going through his growth spurt and ISIS has given him nice new black trousers to go with the other black clothing he wears. It pains you that you can't be there to watch him become a man. When you try to approach your son, the older boy, now garnering a balaclava, steps in front of him. You stare into the narrow slit that reveals only the man's eyes.
- Push the older boy aside and reach out to Emad. What are they going to do? Kill you? He is your son.
- Yell at the older boy and hold Yara, Emad's sister, in the air. Make him remember your family, or what's left of it at least.
- Walk away. Emad has made his choice. If he comes back to you, you will accept him. But if not, you are ready to let him go.