January 19, 2014
As sons of Alawite and Druze families continue to come home in coffins year after year, members of Bashar al-Assad’s sect and other pro-regime minorities have begun to express their discontent over the war’s human toll.
Alawites in the Latakia village of Basnada exchanged fire with regime forces late last year following the burial of a local soldier, demanding that the regime stop sending their young men off to the front, reported pro-opposition news channel al-Aan TV.
This month, a group of Druze stormed a regime recruitment station in Salhkad in Swuyada province and forcibly removed a young man arrested for avoiding military recruitment, reported pro-opposition All4Syria. Similar incidents have occurred in Swuyada as far back as December 2013, when a group of elders broke into a military barracks and removed 450 young men wanted for military service, according to All4Syria.
“Every family has suffered the death of sons, the widowing of daughters, ” Abu Muhammed al-Latakani, the alias of an Alawite writer from Latakia now residing in Damascus tells Syria Direct’s Ghardinia Ashour.
“The rope of misery is growing tighter around their necks without them seeing a convincing reason for the war.”
But the possibility of an uprising against the president is “a dream,” the writer says, because hardline Islamist militias such as Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State “constantly remind the vast majority [of Alawites] that they will eliminate them entirely.”
Q: Seeing as you belong to a specific sect, does this mean that your political point of view is predetermined?
Personally I don’t belong to any sect. Rather, I think that sects are a cover that hides the truth: people don’t have a role in their destinies.
Sectarian interests monopolize, control and take away from people their role [in determining their fate] and the scope of their real actions. Nothing remains for them except for these vertical, divine choices that they call on to replace their earthly failures.
When people take control of their own roles, and their leaders are born of their aspirations and express their interests and strive to ensure their honor and to be of service to them, then the people will rip up these repugnant sectarian covers.
As far as I’m concerned, seeing as I was born in that province and to this group, yes my political point of view is predetermined as long as the Syrian street doesn’t know any alternative powers. I mean, alternative to the criminal and degenerate parties that divide up the land. Reality is my choice, until powers come about that include, and mend, and build bridges.
Q: A number of media reports assert that the percentage of Alawites who support the regime is falling. What do you say?
In order to realize the true stance of the Alawite people towards the current regime, we need to remember that a sizable percentage of Alawites belong to the regime as volunteers—in the army, in different security apparatuses, the Republican Guard, the fourth division [a special army division run by Maher al-Assad]…
To say nothing of state employees, and those who recently joined the national defense, and the entourages of important people in the state.
The life of the vast majority of Alawites is connected with the regime, therefore the issue of a lack of support is farfetched. What makes it more farfetched [is the presence] of doctrinal, activist religious groups in Syria, who constantly remind the vast majority [of Alawites] that they will eliminate [us] entirely.
But there is another side to this equation, which lies in the internal feelings of Alawites towards their Syria, and is connected to their desire for the people to feel a sense of brotherhood and cooperate towards a better life, far from all this blood and destruction that helps no one.
To be honest, the Alawites were the most miserable among the Syrians.
A quick look at their houses in Damascus, and a comparison between them and the houses of the Druze, or of the displaced people from Golan or the Palestinians—a quick look will prove that.
Some Alawites today are shifting on their position because of the destruction that ravages them. Every family has suffered the death of sons, the widowing of daughters; the rope of misery is growing tighter around their necks without them seeing a convincing reason for the war. These families are in a position [i.e., supporting the regime] they would not have continued to be in if not for [the presence] of those brutal, doctrinal religious groups [like Nusra and IS].
As for mandatory recruitment?
There are virtually no families in the Alawite areas who don’t have “martyrs.” Large numbers of young women have become widows. In every village there are problems with the state shortchanging the families of martyrs whom they are supposed to compensate, problems surrounding kidnapped soldiers, problems connected to some soldiers sitting in [regime] prisons because of mistakes.
People feel like they’re suffocating. Maybe those feelings have exploded in certain places like the protest in Tartous or that in Latakia. But these occurrences won’t bear fruit or express themselves effectively as long as the Islamist groups are around.
For a long time I’ve personally been convinced that it’s possible for the Syrian people to unite in the face of the oppression inflicted on them, whether from the regime or IS or the young criminals and thieves-but how?
The sons [of minorities] are being sacrificed so the media apparatus can continue to present something that maintains and deepens [regime supporters’] staying in line, and protects the interests of that class that the crisis has only made richer.
These general feelings [of discontent] cannot turn into a general stance without power and organization and popular movement across all of Syria. This is a dream, unfortunately. I don’t see anything that realistically portends its achievement. Anger and some flare-ups and statements don’t do anything with the current general mentality.
Q: If your point of view is different from other Alawites, what are the consequences you face for dissent?
Now I’m at odds with a portion of my family and beyond because I directly condemned, by mentioning names, people around me, my father and relatives and some residents of the village, and I talked about the sect in letters from my life [that I posted on Facebook].
So I’m detested, and persona non grata to a large degree. I am exposed to a lot of irritating situations.
I meet people in the street, some don’t return my greeting when I greet them. Some people have spoken to me in an insulting manner.
But until now, it hasn’t reached the level of material threat.
I won’t hide it from you: I live with a considerable amount of anxiety and fear.
Q: To what extent does a minority president represent protection for that minority?
The truth of the matter is that what gives the president this characteristic [protector of minorities] is the absence of any viable alternative. I mean the absence of any competitive options make this president and his team the only choice.
Why would the minorities stop their support [for Bashar] in order to be under the fist of the Islamic State or Nusra or…there are no alternatives [to Bashar].
If you find me one alternative who can stop the fears of the brutal Islamists, and who has power and a civil project, the president wouldn’t find a single person behind him.
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