Aya, a Christian artist who has been campaigning against the regime for years, predicted prison won’t be enough in the eyes of the rebels to balance the perception of Christian support for Mr. Assad. She fears score-settling if the regime falls.
“Many Christians think that this regime is good for us,” said Aya, a 51-year-old from Aleppo who fled to Beirut in October. “They think that if they keep quiet, Assad will stay and protect us, but this is an illusion.”
When the government deployed fighter jets to Aleppo to drive back rebel advances in the northern city, they did not spare Christians in the city, Aya said.
“We all got hit, but it’s too late now for Christians to change their minds about this regime,” Aya said. “I am afraid that now we will pay the price for being silent about this terrible regime all these years.”
Even for those who support the rebels, the nature of the opposition has caused ripples of apprehension. As the fight to overthrow Mr. Assad drags on, the rebels’ ranks are becoming dominated by Islamists, raising concerns that the country’s potential new rulers will marginalize them or establish an Islamic state.
Al-Qaeda-inspired groups have become the most organized fighting units, increasingly leading battles for parts of Aleppo or assaults on military installations outside the city.
Aleppo’s schools are closed. Food and electricity are scarce. Most stores have been shut for months. Even though some areas of the city — including the predominantly Christian district along Faisal Street — are still controlled by government forces, the streets are unsafe, she said.
Aya lamented that it’s nearly impossible to imagine the country going back to what it was. In the weeks before she fled for good, she said, the violence overwhelmed her.
“There was so much shooting, such terrible bombings, and I could not take it,” she said. “In two weeks I slept for 10 hours, I did not eat, and I cried all the time because my city was turning into ruins, and I saw it with my own eyes.”