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The city of Aleppo is known as the financial hub of Syria. Now it is also known as a center of violence and more than 200,000 civilians have fled the city, many of them to Turkey. The poor are being housed in crowded camps along the border. The middle class and wealthier Syrians have made it farther, including to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. NPR's Deborah Amos visited some of those who have fled and she found mixed feelings about the fighting back in their country.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: The battles in Aleppo are mostly fought in the poorest neighborhoods, many of Aleppo's middle class and the rich have already left. You only have to walk around in this southern Turkish city - about a two hour drive from Aleppo - to meet them.
ABU HUSSEIN: We have money. We came to the official border.
AMOS: When did you come?
HUSSEIN: We came three weeks ago"
AMOS: Abu Hussein bypassed the refugee camps along the frontier and drove into turkey.
HUSSEIN: We escaped from bombing, from fighting, from killing, from missing from everything, you know. You cannot live in Aleppo for the time being, because the future it is very dark now.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: He's come to share an evening with friends from Aleppo - exiled dentists, engineers and teachers. They all say they support the revolution and welcome the rebels, who are mostly from the countryside. But Abu Hussein admits, reluctantly, that many in Aleppo's business community do not support the fighters and blame them for bringing the revolution from rural Syria to the city.
Are they giving money to the revolution?
HUSSEIN: Not yet. Not yet.
AMOS: Are they giving water to the rebels when they come to their neighborhood?
HUSSEIN: Not yet, also.
AMOS: Why do you think that?
HUSSEIN: I cannot talk about this.
AMOS: The rebels more openly acknowledge the resentments. Abu Riad is a commander with the Tawheed Brigade, the main fighting force leading the assault on Aleppo. And he jokes about the sensibilities of city people.
ABU RIAD: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: If they don't have their bread, they feel like the world is collapsing, he says with a grin.
Do they blame you for the shelling or do they blame the government?
RIAD: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: Some blame us, he admits. So the rebels have worked hard to win over residents, supplying flour and fuel for bakeries, repairing power lines to keep the lights on. But there are other fears. Some fighters have been radicalized by the revolution. Videos of gruesome battlefield executions, reports of foreign fighters joining the brigades, have shaken Aleppo's upper class, even those who support the revolt. There's a culture clash, says Syria specialist Andrew Tabler.
ANDREW TABLER: There is definitely a tension between the countryside and the cities. The question is how do those two forces who have traditionally been opposed to each other, the conservative countryside and the more mercantile cities, how do they work together politically in a post Assad Syria.
(SOUNDBITE OF STIRRING)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: Some answers may come here. It's one of the first meetings of its kind. A lawyer, part of the Aleppo elite, came to meet Commander Abu Riad on the Turkish border.
MOEMEN ABDUL RAHMAN: It's the first time I meet Abu Riad, about this project and about this idea.
AMOS: The idea, says lawyer Moemen Abdul Rahman(ph), is to create what he calls a civil protection force - a rebel brigade dedicated to protecting private business and government property after the regime falls. A senior police official is also part of the meeting. He defected in June and says he's organized 200 policemen ready to step in. They share the goal of stabilizing Aleppo, says Abdul Rahman, getting merchants and the professional class to return quickly so Aleppo can get back to work.
RAHMAN: It's the future for Syria. We want to build our country, because we have to save our factories, our markets to create jobs for our fighters.
AMOS: The meeting is a small sign that Aleppo's business community, that's backed President Assad and his family for decades, does not see a future under his rule. The rebels are a force on the ground, rooted in Syria's countryside, but are now part of Aleppo's political future.
Deborah Amos, NPR News.
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