Amid debate with Joshua Landis in the comments section of the previous post, I wrote this:
Another point about sectarianism. Remember the fight bewtween Alawis and Ismailis some years ago in Masyaf (was it Masyaf?). There was a good piece about it on Syria Comment. Somebody at the time (perhaps Joshua) pointed out that the fight wouldn’t have reached the proportions it did if there had been respected civil society figures who could have knocked the young men’s heads together. But there weren’t any such figures, because any natural authority figure was perceived as a threat by the regime and had been removed. Masyaf is a microcosm of Syria.
Then a visitor called AK posted the following comment, which is very worth reading.
Syrians lived together even before the arrival of Al Assad family to power. Mind you, majority of Alawii are poorer now than forty years ago. You just need to visit any Alawii village (including Kurdaha) to establish that yourself..
To follow on from your comment Robin: in the eighties, the Muslim Brothers were threatening the peace of Latakia. One day, Alawii groups were walking toward Sunni streets aiming for revenge. They faced a group of Alawii Sheikhs that were protecting the Sunnis. This stopped the potential civil unrest in Latakia in its infancy; nothing happened afterward. This is a well known fact, you can ask about it..
What did the regime do for these Alawii Sheikhs in the years that followed? Well, Jamil Al Assad, brother of Hazez forced himself to be the head of the Alawii sheikhs and the Al Jaafari Association. He threatened and stopped anybody that refused. He even burned Alawii Mazarat to establish himself as the sole leader.
Robin, Al Assad family are not able to understand that anybody else except them could represent Alawii. The original deal was that Hafez is the political leader, Rafaat was the Army leader and Jamil was the spiritual leader. There was no economical leader. For this position they appointed Al Makhlouf family.
I feel sick of writing and talking about this, It is obvious to me so much that I don’t know where to start from and why educated people such as Joshua are struggling to understand. I advise anybody that struggles to understand how Syria is ruled to watch “The God Father”. Syria is not sectarian. It has been made sectarian so some people keep their chairs.
Al Shabi7a are originally the group of drug and money smugglers that worked with Al Assad family in Latakia. Mouhammed Al Assad (Sheik Al jabal) is one of their leaders, Fawaz Al Assad is another one. To be an Alawii is not a must to become a Shabeh, you just need to be loyal to the cause (smuggling) and the master. Iyad and Ihab Makhoulf used many Sunnis, Alawiis and Christians Shabi7a in the nineties to smuggle Damascene business men money to Lebanon and to steal Lebanese cars. Their network was discovered only when they stole Al Hrawai son’s car. Nowadays some of these Shabi7a thugs are coming from Al Skentouri and Al Slaybeh in Latakia. These are Sunni pockets. However, I believe that al Shabeha are the natural development of 40 years of the same ruling regime, the same as Salafis. Both of these groups are two faces of the same coin. They both came because of the regime!!
The regime protects the minorities as long as they protect and defend it. The regime will use minorities to destabilize Syria long before they give up power.
I feel that our duty as intellectuals is to keep talking about national unity, to keep talking about the Syrian population as a whole. We must avoid talking about sectarianism even if we see it happening in front of our eyes. The regime is not an Alwaii regime, nobody can convince me of that. Bashar is married to Al Akhras family, this family was prohibited from entering Syria before the marriage. This family agreed to be part of the ruling group, and so many other people did. Bashar didn’t marry an Alawii because he wanted to give a message to the Sunni population, not because he was in love with Asmaa Al Akhras!
Loss aversion is very prominent these days. People are worried and afraid of change. For this to change to happen, I think that the opposition leaders should assure minorities, they should make their agenda and themselves clear and publicly known. So many Alawiis hate the regime but they are worried that the majority will take revenge. Assure Alawiis and other minorities and you will see the difference.
What happened to our parents and relatives in the eighties doesn’t need to happen again. The regime is willing to do everything to have the support and the endorsement of the silent majority. Only when the majority of demonstrations continue to be unarmed, the silent majority will start supporting them.
There is one big difference between now and the eighties. The fear barrier is broken and no amount of killing will build it up again….