There are large parts of Syria's northern region that are under tentative rebel control. The army does not patrol these areas very often, as Assad's men dislike leaving the safety of their armored vehicles. This means that the rebels have been able to set up checkpoints, which allow them to monitor the movement of people in the region and, more importantly, to travel with a vague degree of freedom. But this goes wrong constantly, and on many days cars leave without ever coming back, having been shot up at random. The great fear, however, remain the Shabiha; gangs of pro-Assad thugs who can appear at any time looking to cave your skull in.