From the roof of the new home he is building on the outskirts of the Kurdish controlled city of Derik in northeast Syria, Bashir Said Mohammad can count a dozen or so other structures in different stages of completion. "All this building has happened after the revolution," he says. "Before we were not able to build. You would go to the regime and they would say no, because we are in the Kurdish areas."
In the Kurdish areas of Syria, known as Rojava, people have wasted little time seizing on the opportunities a tentative retreat by President Bashar Assad's government forces three months ago has afforded them. But while a burgeoning civil society independent of Assad's regime continues to grow, the Kurds are desperately trying to avoid the devastating violence that has battered cities like Aleppo and Homs.