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The New Syria Has A Passport Stamp

As the Syrian rebels have secured border checkpoints from the government, they're stamping passports: "New Syria."

Posted on December 5, 2012, at 4:33 p.m. ET

The few people trying to get in and out of Syria right now can either smuggle their way in through a number of unofficial — and dangerous — methods, or they can pass through one of the checkpoints at the Turkish border that are now controlled by the Free Syrian Army.

The photo above shows the FSA's passport stamp. It reads "New Syria," according to journalist Jenan Moussa, who has been reporting from the city of Aleppo.

The passport stamp is one of the trappings of a state, and there are signs that the tide is beginning to turn against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad; weapons are streaming in from abroad to the rebel fighters, and the government troops appear to be weakening.

"I think they have been using some kind of stamp for a while so for me it is more of an assertion that 'we are in charge here,'" said Jeff White, defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In its latest issue, the American Journalism Review writes that the stamps are mostly symbolic for now: "The ceremonial stamp on their passports doesn't make reporters legal in the eyes of government in Damascus." AJR calls Syria "the most dangerous place in the world for journalists."

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