March 5, 2015

Regime forces have maintained tight control over the Druze and Christian-majority city of Jaramana in the Damascus suburbs since the beginning of the revolution.

Due east several kilometers southeast of the Old City of Damascus, Jaramana has been a strategic node for the regime between rebel-controlled towns in East Ghouta and southern Damascus.

Recently, however, noticeable tensions between local Druze residents and pro-regime fighters occupying the area have begun to flare.

Compulsory military service and poor treatment by pro-Assad militias have turned some Druze against the government.

Last month, shabiha militiamen killed a restaurant owner in the middle of Jaramana after refusing to pay their bill, sparking a series of protests against the regime’s control of the city, reported pro-opposition news agency All4Syria.

Still, the Druze in Jaramana do not trust the regime forces, but “consider it the better of two evils,” says Maaruf Jaramani, the alias of a Jaramana-based Druze media activist and graduate of the law school at the University of Damascus.

“Unfortunately, the general view is that the conflict is a popular, internal war that we [the Druze] have nothing to do with,” Jaramani tells Syria Direct’s Muatasem Jamal.

Q: How is the relationship between the Druze and Syrian security forces, specifically the shabiha, in Jaramana?

The Druze population in Jaramana does not trust the regime security apparatuses. However, the Druze consider it the better of two evils.

The bigger evil in their opinion is two-fold: the first is the destruction of the city by [regime] air force and artillery fire that would happen if they participated in the revolution; the second is the Islamic extremists.

Nusra Bomb Jaramna Jabhat a-Nusra launches mortars into Jaramana in January. Photo courtesy of @JabhtAnNusrah_s.

Q: How do the Druze in Jaramana view the current war in Damascus?

Jaramana is a relatively large city, therefore there isn’t just one perspective held by all. However, the enlightened cultural elite participated in the revolution via protests and there is currently a combat brigade in East Ghouta, with a majority of them being Druze [from Jaramana].

Unfortunately, the general view is that the conflict is a popular, internal war that we [the Druze] have nothing to do with.

Q: What are your expectations for the war?

That democracy is coming because the will of the people cannot be defeated.

Q: How has the Druze’s stance changed since the military service crisis and the worsening of events in Jaramana?

Before the events, obligatory service was considered a routine matter, loathed by all of the nation’s youth. Yet there is a serious point to be made: The people of Jaramana have abstained from volunteering in the military and the security forces since the seventies and continue to do so today, except for extremely rare cases.

Therefore, compulsory military service is considered an imminent danger to the lives of the youth and we must be rid of it one way or another. It is important to note that the number of cases involving refusal of compulsory service or reserve duty from the Druze community has reached 12,000. As for those who volunteer to fight within the ranks of the regime, they either lack understanding, are unemployed and destitute, or do so for theft and material greed…They are without loyalty or sense of duty.

Q: How have the security forces’ treatment of the Druze in Jaramana been recently, particularly after the shabiha’s killing of the restaurant owner?

Security forces are dealing with [the Druze] with extreme caution because the situation is close to armed conflict.

Q: We heard that there is phenomenon of [renewed] religious adherence in Jaramana’s Druze community. What are the reasons for this phenomenon?

All of it is the result of intellectual emptiness and collective defeat. It is natural that people take refuge in religion as a result of the shocking calamity and the terror that is taking place in the region. The events that are occurring now are signs of the apocalypse for most of the people here.

[From that point of view], it has become necessary to turn around, become insular, and prepare [religiously] for this day. I also add that the Sunni-Shi’a conflict is the basis that is pushing the other sects towards this [religious] insularity.

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