SON OF TARTUS: In a darkened room, a Syrian man from the western province of Tartous describes having to leave his village after the scandal he caused by asking the local grocery shop to turn on al-Arabiya for news about Syria. The popular Saudi news network is considered strongly pro-opposition by supporters of Syria’s government.
The unnamed young man painfully details the dissonance he feels between love for his hometown and his belief that residents have become sectarian since the war’s beginning.
“Where did this hatred come from?” he asks, in a video produced by the Abou Naddara production company.
“They [Tartous residents] are not like this,” he says. “I am a son of Tartous, I know they were not like this before.” After publicy asking the store owner to tune in to Al Arabiya, fellow citizens forced him to leave in lieu of detaining or hurting him out of respect for his family.
“I pity the Alawites,” he says.
His voice trembling, the young man ask his villagers, “since when did you start hating the people of Idlib? Since when have you hated the people of Damascus?”
Through nearly three years of war, both sides of the Syrian conflict have accused the other of sectarianism.
Rebels continuously point to al-Assad’s favoritism of Alawite groups. Bashar al-Assad’s family is from the coastal province of Latakia, and has been known for protecting and privileging Syria’s Alawite community, who formed about 11.5 percent of Syria’s pre-war population. Loyalist Alawite militias have reportedly committed some of the war’s greatest atrocities.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government has consistently framed itself as defending the multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Syrian state, pointing to the rise of extremist Sunni militants in rebels’ ranks. This week, the Syrian government accused the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham of massacring Alawites in the town of Maan in rural Hama, a charge the group has denied.