So ‘‘when I quit my job as a magazine editor to dedicate my time to the revolution, they went crazy,’’ he said in an interview through Skype.
‘‘Sometimes they shut me off for days, they don’t talk to me, then they ease up,’’ he said.
The rebel sons of the Khayyat family matriarch seemed unsure whether their brother was serving in Assad’s military willingly or out of fear if he defected. The brother was drafted six months before the uprising began and is serving in the eastern Deir el-Zour province. Tens of thousands of soldiers have defected over the past 20 months, many now fighting alongside the rebels.
At the Khayyat family home in Kisweh, south of Damascus, the matriarch’s eldest son walks in slowly, dragging his foot because of a injury during recent fighting. He was the first of the brothers to join the Free Syrian Army rebels, after he became convinced armed resistance was needed against Assad’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
He hasn’t seen his army brother for months. He and other members of the family spoke on condition their first names not be used for fear of reprisals.
‘‘I know there may come a day when my brother and I might stand face to face against each other, but this is a war between right and wrong,’’ he said.
Another brother with the rebels is convinced their military sibling is staying unwillingly. The last time he spoke with him was last month during the Eid al-Adha holiday.
‘‘He couldn’t say anything beyond ‘how are you'. He knows he is under surveillance,’’ said the brother, who was fired from his job as teacher at a private school for taking part in an anti-government protest. ‘‘If he defects, they would not forgive him, he would be killed.’’
‘‘The struggle is no longer just between the regime and the opposition. It is now at the workplace, in every family and in every home,’’ he said.
Their father, who was imprisoned several times during the uprising, is now in hiding, a wanted man. Their mother starts to cry as she tells of how her own brother has not spoken to her in a year and a half because of her rebel sons.
‘‘But I stick up to my sons because they are fighting for what they believe in,’’ she said. ‘‘As a mother, I don’t differentiate between my sons.’’
‘‘All I want is to have them all gathered around the same meal at home again.’’
An AP contributor in Damascus contributed to this report.