Majid and Masoud are Syrian Shiites of Iranian origin. Their family comes from a lower-class neighborhood in the Old City of Damascus.
"In the Old City, we were close to different religions. We had Christians, Jewish, Sunni, Shiite. Growing up there it was more like a communal and collective society. People were always visiting each other, so there were strong ties between the families." Majid says.
The brothers and their two sisters grew up in poverty during the secular regime of Hafez al-Assad. Members of his minority Alawite group were given top government and military positions, but Assad cultivated other minorities as a counterweight to the Sunni majority.
Dissent of any sort was not tolerated. While Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria, the Rafizadeh brothers' father was detained and tortured by Syrian security forces for his involvement in a human rights campaign.
Majid eventually escaped the crushing poverty and oppression, receiving a Fulbright teaching scholarship in the United States. Masoud remained in Damascus, quitting school by second grade to support his family by selling memorabilia and tea to tourists.
When Hafez al-Assad's British-educated son Bashar succeeded him in 2000, Syrians hoped for political and economic reforms. They never materialized, and in March 2011 came the first protests against the regime.
Six months later, a radical Sunni preacher issued dire threats against minority groups that did not support the uprising.
"By Allah we will chop up their flesh and feed them to the dogs," Adnan al-Arour said in one of his inflammatory broadcasts on satellite station al-Wesal.
As the civil war enters its third year, it is no longer a simple case of regime against rebels. There are overlapping and intersecting loyalties, foreign fighters and criminals taking advantage of chaos.
"Mounting tensions have led to armed clashes between different armed groups along a sectarian divide. Such incidents took place in mixed communities or where armed groups had attempted to take hold of areas predominantly inhabited by pro-Government minority communities." a recent U.N. report concluded.
"The people are being very cautious of all different groups. They are afraid of all groups. They are afraid of any group outside their home." Majid says.
"The minorities are scared because there are a lot of rumors that there are some extremist radical Sunni groups. They believe that they have distributed fliers saying if you kill one person from a minority, we will pay 100,000 Lira, and there are videos where they mutilate the person."
"The general view is very pessimistic for the minorities; the ones who can are leaving. They are immigrating to European countries. What they hope is that the opposition and Assad can reach an agreement. They don't care about the political structure. They just want the violence to stop," Majid adds.
But there is every sign that the violence is becoming more sectarian and even more vicious.
Earlier this year, fighters from the Sunni jihadist group Nusra Front, designated a terrorist organization by the United States sang "Just wait Allawi. We will come to slaughter you. Forget about any agreement ... We will come to slaughter you, Shiite."
The Rafizadeh family clings to the hope that a political solution can be found.
"I believe that most of the Syrians do not want to see violence in their homeland, and they want the safety and security to be back like it used to be. I don't get involved in politics and I don't want to. I want a normal life in Syria, and just want to live in peace," Masoud says.