Many Syrian young people have followed a similar path in recent months. Excitement about the uprising that began in the spring of 2011 has turned to skepticism and fear as violence has grown and opposition militias, some funded by foreign extremists, have become increasingly influenced by Islamic fundamentalism.

As much as they may hate the violent, repressive regime of President Bashar Assad, these young people — largely educated and middle class — are horrified by the opposition’s alliances with radical groups such as Al Nusra Front, which has ties to Al Qaeda.

They, along with many of their elders among Syria’s educated urban class, feel caught between two unacceptable extremes. The opposition movement once offered hope of a more democratic future. Now, in much the same way that many “Arab Spring” sympathizers in Egypt feel betrayed by their revolution, many Syrians worry that they could be trading one repressive regime for another.

“We won’t be with the regime, but neither are we with the opposition,” said Ahmed. Like other Syrians in this article, he was interviewed from Damascus, the capital, through an Internet audio connection and asked not to be identified by his last name for fear of retribution.