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Syria’s Alawites growing disillusioned with al-Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – At a time when the Syrian regime is seeking to strengthen its ties with the Alawite community and intimidate the country’s minorities – (including the Alawites) – against joining the Syrian revolution, large-scale demonstrations broke out in three Alawite-dominated areas last week, signifying another blow to the ailing al-Assad regime.

The demonstrations saw Syrian Alawites demanding freedom and justice and an end to the sectarianism practiced by the al-Assad regime. The Alawite protesters called for Syria’s Alawite community – traditionally a base of support for Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite – to join the Syrian revolution.

The protests took place in the areas of Damasrakho, Mashqita and Al Daatour in the city of Latakia in the Latakia Governorate in western Syria; the birthplace of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. A large-scale campaign of arrests followed the demonstrations targeting political activists and ordinary citizens who had participated in the protests against the Damascus regime. Damasrakho, Mashqita and Al Daatour are considered to be amongst the most deprived areas of Latakia. Damasrakho is located approximately 2 km from the Latakia city centre; its people mostly depend upon tourism, which has suffered greatly since the beginning of the Syrian revolution approximately 11 months ago.

Alaa, an Alawite political activist who lives in Latakia and is secretly working to coordinate opposition political activity in the governorate, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we were able to stage three demonstrations over the past days in the Alawite-dominated areas [of Latakia] that are most loyal to the ruling regime.”

He also revealed that “the inhabitants of Alawite villages [in western Syria] are growing restless with the al-Assad regime, and are seriously thinking about abandoning it.”

The opposition political activist listed the names of many Alawite families who have “lost sons after the regime recruited them to join the pro-regime Shabiha militia under the pretext of defending the Alawite sect.”

He said “these families are holding the al-Assad regime responsible for the death of their sons and asking: why are our sons dying for the sake of a corrupt family that is looting the country, and a president who is distributing the nation’s wealth amongst his cronies, and who is clinging to power out of self-interest?”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had claimed that the struggle that is taking place in Syria today is between patriots and Islamist; however Alaa, who refused to disclose his full name to Asharq Al-Awsat for fear of reprisals, stressed that “since the beginning of the revolution, the Syrian regime has spread sectarian rumors and attempted to incite one sect against another. It also armed Alawite villages and recruited Alawite youth to join the Shabiha militia who are suppressing the protesters.”

Alaa informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Alawites are the victims of the al-Assad regime twice-over; once because they are part of the Syrian people who have been suppressed and persecuted for decades; and a second time because they are defending this suppression and the regime that perpetuates it.”

He also pointed out that the “Alawites in Syria are living in difficult economic conditions and a large percentage of them are extremely poor” adding “the al-Assad regime has succeeded in deceiving them with sectarian rhetoric and incitement, causing them to fear other sects.”

Syria’s Alawite community – which Bashar al-Assad belongs to – makes up around 12 percent of Syria’s population; they are centred in the Syrian coastal area, Homs and Hama.

The Syrian regime has largely succeeded in neutralizing the Alawite community and preventing it from joining the popular movement demanding the ouster of al-Assad by inciting sectarian fears. However it appears that the Alawite community is growing increasingly frustrated with the situation in the country, and individuals from within the Alawite community have announced their affiliation and support for the Syrian revolution, most prominently Syrian actress Fadwa Suleiman who has joined the Syrian revolution in Homs. Before the uprising, Suleiman was known for her roles in television, radio, cinema and theatre; she played an art teacher at an orphanage in the critically acclaimed television series “Small Hearts”, which helped raise awareness about human organ trafficking. She became increasingly active in the Syria uprising, appearing at rallies and calling for al-Assad to step down. The Syrian actress insists Sunnis and Alawites can live together in peace despite the sectarian violence that broken out across the country in light of the al-Assad regime fear-mongering. Speaking to Reuters earlier this year, Suleiman said “we’re a civilized and peaceful nation. We cannot let the regime with a simple ploy make us slaughter each other to justify its existence.”

In a recording released on YouTube last week, Alawite opposition political activists claimed that they are “part of the Syrian people’s revolution and hostile to the regime’s suppression of other sects and ethnic groups.” The video recording announced that the Alawite opposition rejected the al-Assad regime “which is trying to the people within a suffocating security environment by relying on a network of profiteers and systematic sectarian incitement.”