Sectarianism in the Syrian Conflict

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Syria has always been a multi-ethnic land of many religions. Ancient Christian communities, Alawi and other Shi'a, Druze, and a few Jews (app. 22 per wikipedia) live alongside the Sunni Muslim majority (estimated at around 60-70% of the population). "The people of Syria" have risen up, but those are mostly Sunni, and not even a majority of that majority. The opposition claim genocideand other discimination by the "Alawite regime" headed by Alawi president Bashar Al-Assad. Their propsed answers vary. The infamous slogan among some rebels "Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave" should suffice as an introduction to the problems Syria faces as these people, heavily armed, impose their will, if temporarily, on city after city across Syria.

The following is a stub page for the moment, with some material to start, and more at the discussion page.

Background

A bit of insight on the Sunni extremist view if Shia (Shi'ites), read as definitely including Alawi (Alawites) from Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch, January 1, 2015 As Aleppo Goes, So Goes Syria?:

Iran’s worst nightmare in Iraq and Syria and perhaps soon in Lebanon is Da’ish (IS) and Nusra black flags fluttering on the horizon Both have left little doubt that they view Shia as a cult of apostates who tried to hijack Islam in the 7th Century and need to be eradicated or at a minimum converted and watched closely.
...they have recently launched a campaign to liberate Syria and Iraq from what they claim now nearly total Iranian occupation. Da’ish has launched a social media campaign among Sunni tribes to eliminate once and for all Shia and return Islam to the Caliphate of and by Mohammad the Prophet.

Death Toll

The number of documented deaths in the Syrian conflict has risen to 191,369 since the beginning of the conflict through April 2014, Reuters citing a UN report.

Persecution of Syria's Sunni Majority by the Government

It's alleged by some among the rebels that genocide against Syria's Sunni majority, at least in certain areas, is the main factor behind the government ("Alawite regime") repression of the rebel struggle. There can be little doubt that most of those killed fighting with the mostly-Sunni insurgency are primarily Sunni. But it's other things, like the prevalent Shabiha massacres of Sunni civilians, women and children, those making the argument point to. These stories, widely accepted as true, would clearly indicate genocidal intent of a truly monstrous nature if the opposition reports for each one were true. But their truth is far from certain, as much of the existing work at this site illustrates.

Persecution of Syria's Minorities by the Rebellion

This issue has only slowly come towards, if not yet to, the forefront of Western and world concerns. There's been much hand-wringing about weapons getting into the hands of people who would use them against "Western interests." That they might be used for massive sectarian genocide has remained a more muted concern, even as evidence piles up that the weapons rebels have now are already being used to kill and chase away Syria's minorities from the few places they're able to"liberate."

Alawi/Alawite

Alawites, preferring the term Alawi, are a sub-set of Shi'ite (Shia) Islam, taking a moderate interpretation, mixed with other ideas, and since blurred, with specifics hard to establish. Related to the Alevi of Turkey, the Alawi began in Syria 900 years ago; Syria remains their heartland, where they represent around 13% of the population. One excellent article for an overview of Alawi history and how today's nightmare plays into it, see The Alawites: Fact, Fiction and Fear! by Reem Haddad, Counterpunch, October 10, 2013. Detailed history with a long, grim, vague first several centuries that shased them into their mountain hideouts, some liberties realized under French rule in the early 20th century, Hefez Assad's ascendancy in 1969 bringing them back into the cities, etc. Then 2011 and recurring massacres chasing them back to the mountains so to speak, culminating with the August, 2013 Latakia Massacres up in those mountains, to tell the Alawi they're safe nowhere. Haddad makes a point of the relative silence this episode received exactly until the time of publication:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-apparently Observatory for only some Syrians and not all- hardly dwelled on what had happened and what was even more surprising was that the media in Syria didn’t give these massacres their due. It was as if they were too ashamed to talk of what they had thought would never happen again. No serious attempt was made to publicize these massacres and they were hardly mentioned in Western media. No official complaint was made against the “Syrian National Coalition” which harbours these armed groups and no request for an official investigation was made either, for what happened in Syria was ethnic cleansing no mistake about it. Ethnic cleansing carried out with the blessing of the West and the funding of Gulf countries and Saudi!

Human Rights Watch happened to release their valuable report on those events the very next day, October 11.

In the early days, before there was a bitter war as excuse for the brutality, at least one Alawi man was singled out for death, in April 2011, by Sunni "protesters." Nidal Jannoud was a 31 year-old farmer from those sinister Alawite villages surrounding Sunni Baniyas, killed in the city when he went to sell his crops, reports TruthSyria. He was callously filmed as he tried to walk on coated in blood, chased by jeering youths who had sliced his face deeply, were threatening him with rocks, etc. He was reportedly then killed by the mob, for being the wrong kind of Muslim. TruthSyria's article (July, 2011) explains "This is the Muslim Brotherhood style. What is more disgusting than the Muslim brotherhood is the media agencies that claimed recently that Nidal has been killed by the Syrian security.. After they kept silent for three months from his death, and after all the reports have been made about him, came some media agencies to claim that the Syrian security killed him.” source

Video, late 2011: (Saudi cleric and wannabe Syrian warlord) Adnan Al-Arour Says that They will Chop the Alawaites who Oppose the Syrian Revolution. To be fair, he promises Rebel-supporting Alawites, known as supporters, will be equal citizens of a Syria he calls "ours" (again, he's a A saudi Arabian). Those who remained neutral will be "forgotten," he says - neither taken care of nor punished. "But those who stood against us, I swear by Allah (standing to emphasize) we will chop them and feed their flesh to the dogs."

In more recent months, there is of course the famous "cannibalism" video, of the rebel commander cutting open an Alawite soldier, removing a contested organ, and biting it for the camera while saying “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog,” the man says to the camera. “Hopefully we will slaughter all of them [Alawites],” the commander, Khalid al-Hamad, later told TIME Magazine, which first uncovered the clip. “I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small pieces and large ones.” (ABC News)

Massacres

The rebel threat "Alawites to the Grave" is not uttered as much now as it was in early 2012. But since then especially, it's gone more from a loud threat to a quietly delivered-on promise. For just some of the larger examples, see:

(until created, see here )

  • Aqrab Massacre Dec. 2-11, 2012: 500 Alawite civilians taken hostage when rebels overran their half of Aqrab. Some 200-235 final prisoners are missing, with the last we heard of them a clearly false rebel story of their killing by Shabiha and the Syrian military.
  • Maan Massacre Dec. 25, 2012: 23 killed, including 7 children, during the rebel occupation of this Alawi town. Rebels say it was Shabiha, who killed the few Sunnis in town. Actually that part could be true - Sunnis who willingly lived side-by-side with Alawi are also hated by the extremists.
  • Latakia MassacresAugust 4-8(?), 2013: Rebels push their first major offensive in central Latakia, the Alawite province: 12 towns are taken, hundreds slaughtered in reportedly gruesome ways, raped, tortured, and perhaps hundreds more taken hostage/captive.
  • Khunayfis Massacre again Hama, November 8, 2013 - eight Alawite civilians - four adults and four children - were killed. CIWCL may have found the child victims in opp. records, laundered in a nearby Sunni town.
  • Zantuba Massacre: Fars News reports on SOHR reporting on a massacre in Hama province, town Zantuba. Four generations were killed - a 102-year-old man, his son, his grandson, the grandson's wife and their daughter. ""Some members of the family were burned alive, others killed in their sleep," the Observatory added."
  • Ishtabraq Massacre, Idlib province, April 25, 2015: up to 180 missing or dead after a town-razing raid by Islamist "Army of Conquest" who had just "liberated Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour.

Further Reported Crimes

(some sporadic examples)

  • Raqqah, May 14, 2013: Three government officials, all Alawi, executedby gunshot in the public square: ”We respond to the criminal Bashar who is killing Sunnis everywhere,” the man with the megaphone said. “Now we decided to come close to God by killing those Alawites…” (ABC News). Elsewhere, it's said that they specify the killings were in revenge for the Baniyas massacre. The SOHR would later report an update to this story:
An activist from Homs city has identified to the SOHR the identity of 2 of the 3 men publicly executed on 14/5/2013 by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in Raqqah city. The 2 men are Mustafa al-Jani, a dentist by profession, and his nephew Iyad Nawfal, who was a teacher. They are civilians from the village of al-Ashrafiya, north Reef Homs, and they come from a Muslim Alawite background. They are not, as stated by others, officers in the Syrian army or in the armed forces in any way.

They were, however, killed alongside an Alawi soldier with a broken foot. That these are the baddest Alawites they could find to get revenge on, suggests there were few others left around, the rest having fled or been killed already.

It apparently got worse, for whatever reason, after the alleged chemical attacks in Ghouta in late August. The following is just from watching for a few days.

  • Raqqah, Sept. 16, 2013, SOHR: "ISIS fighters executed 2 men in the al-Na'im square of al-Raqqa city because the 2 men were A'lwai muslims. ISIS fighters called them Nusayri apostates and regime infiltrators. 1 of the woman protested during the execution, ISIS fighters replied that they are "Nusayri apostates who have raped our women", the woman responded "You are the apostates and we are all Syrians""
  • Raqqah, Sept. 18, 2013, SOHR: "Activists from the al-Tabaqa city reported to the SOHR that the ISIS slaughtered a man in the Sweidiya Kabira village of Reef al-Tabaqa, and said that he was a "Nusayri" (an Alawite), his identity and the date of his detainment are still unknown.
  • Hama province (Talbiseh, hear Rastan), Sept. 19: SOHR: "Fighters from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic battalion, al-Nusra front, al-Haq brigade, al-Meqdad Bin Aswad battalion and the first and second legions from Talbisa city launched an attack on the Kafernan village, that is mainly inhabited by Muslim Alawites.
Hama Province: The number of people who died on Friday morning due to detonation of a booby trapped truck in the village of Al Harra which is inhabited by Alawites has risen to 43, including 20 women and 11 children. In addition to, 2 fighters from NDF, who lives in the village, were killed in this explosion.

41,000 Dead?

On May 14, it was reported, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revised its death toll to at least 94,000 and perhaps 120,000. The interesting part is where it's said 1/3 to nearly 1/2, 41,000, are Alawi!

The group said that at least 41,000 of those confirmed killed were Alawites, the sect of President Bashar al-Assad. Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, said that the Alawite death figures were confirmed by eight different Alawite sources in coastal cities and in Homs. ..."We believe the real figure of those killed from both sides is above 120,000 because both sides are being discreet on their casualties," Abdulrahman said.
Hmmm.... I'm sure the number is alarmingly high, especially among captured soldiers where Alawites do nothing but die. Probably more than half of that roughly 1/4 will be Alawites. But 41,000 sounds a bit high, and eight Alawite sources agreeing doesn't sound like the best criteria. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:49, 26 May 2013 (UTC)
Syrian Observatory probably overestimated Alawite casualties
Although I have no doubt about the fact that the overall death toll is at least that high, it is hard for me to believe that Alawites account for minimum one third of the victims. As far as civilians are concerned, Alawites have suffered much less from the war than Sunnis. Regions inhabited by Alawites have been spared major military operations to a large extent. No large Alawite town or neighbourhood was overrun by the rebels, and none of them has known the fate of the countless Sunni cities that were turned into rubble by the regime's artillery and bombers (most of Homs...
Hmmm... not the best counter-argument, considering the Aqrab Massacre, the Maan Massacre, or the numerous Alawite districts of Homs and Alawite homes in non-Alawite districts of Homs, etc. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:49, 26 May 2013 (UTC)
The notorious British “snack shop“, the so-called “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, has stated on Thursday, that during the current conflict in Syria 94,000 people had been killed so far and that of these killed people in Syria, about 41,000 belonged to the Alawite religion. Thus, one of the main mouthpieces of the active terrorists in Syria claims that more than 43 percent of all dead of the current conflict in Syria belonged to the Alawite religion, although Alawites (Alawis) only make up about 10 percent of the Syrian population.
Alawites are then, according to the reported numbers and according to Cocker, more than six times higher affected by lethal force than the average of all other Syrians so far in the on-going conflict in Syria. This means that the propaganda of the “armed opposition” and their supporters about the alleged massacre of Sunnis by Alawites (Alawis) in Syria, while even a genocide is mentioned, is a monstrous perversion of the truth in its opposite.
The UN resolution was supported by 107 out of 193 nations. Without doubt, the majority of the 107 countries, representing political leaders, were swayed by the high deaths. But I doubt that the people (and perhaps leaders) of these countries knew about the fact that nearly 50% of those killed in Syria belonged to the group that constitutes merely 15% of the population. The campaign of propaganda and deception orchestrated by Qatar and its allies made the war in Syria appear to be a systematic killing of the majority Sunnis by a minority led government. The numbers show otherwise: Alawites are facing a real genocide. The condemnation of the violence committed by the regime and the praise of the opposition that is equally guilty of acts of atrocities does not help stop the violence in Syria.

SOHR possible primary source on this issue, finally: عشرات الاف القتلى من الطائفة العلوية خلال عامين (content check later) --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:30, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

Why this never made it to the English-language site, I do not know. Google Translated:

Tens of thousands of dead from the Alawite sect within two years
Opponents said of the Alawite sect of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that the number of casualties in the upper ranks of the members of the community are much higher than the statistical observatory, which was published two days ago.
Where informed Observatory on Tuesday eight opponents from rural Tartous and Banias and Jableh, Lattakia, Masyaf and Qadmous and Homs, who were arrested during the reign of Hafez al-Assad for long periods, that the number of casualties among the elements of the regular forces of the Alawite sect in these areas more than 24,000, and the number of elements shabeeha and the People's Committees and national defense forces of the sons of the Alawite sect, than the 17000, and confirmed that they trusted the three names the names of more than 35,000 of them, and the rest is bound names or images.
Based on this information documented for a number of martyrs and those killed since the start of the Syrian revolution more than 94 thousand
It is estimated that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the number of casualties since the start of Syrian Revolution in 03/18/2011 Baktrmen 120 thousand and we believe that the real number of martyrs brigades fighter, dead of uniformed Syrian, is double the number who claim the observatory, because of the secrecy severe by the parties casualties during the clashes.

As for the report two days earlier, Nothing I can find. This from May 12 mentions Alawites: "Damascus Governorate :: several mortar rounds this morning on the neighborhood Mezze 86, which mainly from the Alawite sect, which led to material damage and there were no information on casualties until this moment..." Incidentally, " العلوية " by itself Google translates "top" (saw villages top and Christian mentioned recently) --Caustic Logic (talk) 00:45, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Alawite Death Toll Laundering Methods

  • Syria: the Zanuba Massacre and the Harbinafsah Laundering Center? June 26: I finally looked into the Juse, 2014 Zanuba massacre of the 102-year-old Alawite guy and four younger relatives in Hama province - glad I did. Oddly, the best match for this in the VDC database is of people listed as from Harbinafsah, Hama (near Rastan). That's the same place the best match for the Nov. 2013 Khunayfis Massacre of Alawites just down the road from Zanuba also are listed as from, random shelling victims, implicitly Sunni. That's two case where this happens, and not many people from Harbinfsah die. I check who, and they come in batches:
  • June 1 2014 (likely Zanuba victims, 4 of 5 if listed wrong)
  • Nov. 7, 2013 (likely Khunayfis victims, if altered a bit)
  • April 9, 2013 (9 dead - will check)
  • August 3-7 2012 (9 dead - will check)
  • March 4, 2012 (6 dead). I checked into this one - it's the only 6 of a supposed 14 bus passengers VDC lists, singled out to die on their way back from work at the fertilizer plant in Homs (2+ months before the more famous incident where 12 workers there were taken off a bus and killed). The 6 here, with a long alleged commute, were Harbinafsah locals.

In some few dozen cases it seems that means small-massacre Alawite victims from a 40-km radius swept under the rug by activists in this town. Also, note the two Hama incidents are by ISIS/Daesh. Who helps them launder sectarian massacres, and why? They apparently work in Harbinafsah.

Other Shi'a/Shi'ite

Large, high-profile massacres covered here
  • Hatlah Massacre June, 2013 - claiming to need revenge for losing their base of al-Qusayr and alleged massacres by Hezbollah there, Sunni-Takfiri rebels in Deir Ezzor raided a Shia village, proudly slaughtered a prominent cleric and his son or nephew, a child, plus other related civilians and several local defenders, with a death toll reported at more than sixty.
  • Khan al-Assal Massacre (west Aleppo, Shia majorit suburb, one of the last to remain government-held. Perhaps in revenge for getting a U.N. investigation of the chemical attack there agreed to, rebels took the place over on July 22, 2013, and killed a reported 123 people, including 50 soldiers and many civilians, perhaps including witnesses the U.N. team would have spoken to.

Other Covered Massacres:

  • Al-Shaddadi Petroluem Company Massacre of mid-February, 2013. A facility of the Syrian Petroleum Company near Hasakah (far northeast of Syria) was overrun by rebels of the Al-Nusra Front. Five apparent guards were shown after execution, being cursed as Shi'ite pigs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The SOHR also heard about "tens of Syrian Petroleum workers were killed by the rebels after al-Nusra took over the management buildings and the workers' residential quarters," perhaps for the same offense. [1]
Other Crimes

Kidnapping and mutilation: The BBC reports:

Bassam Wahbh's kidnappers filmed as they cut off his finger and sent the video to his family ... Bassam Wahbh holds up his hand to show where his finger was severed with an axe - another victim of Syria's growing epidemic of kidnapping....Mr Wahbh was held for 53 days by the rebel Free Syrian Army. ... Mr Wahbh played me the two video messages they received. ... Asked why he was kidnapped, Mr Wahbh tells me: "For material and sectarian reasons. I'm a Shia. The sectarian factor was clear, they directed sectarian insults to me and my sect. "They consider me an infidel. They hold a firm belief that we should be slaughtered and killed. This surprised me a lot. I didn't expect that such ignorance existed, and such hate existed."

Salafist rebel forces destroyed a Shi'ite mosque in Azaz, near Jisr Al-Shughur (northern Syria) in mid-December, 2012, and filmed it. Reuters/DailyStar, Dec. 14: Sunni Syrian rebels burn Shiite mosque: video Reuters reported "A fighter holding a rifle says the rebel group is destroying the "dens of the Shiites and Rafida," a derogatory term meaning "deserters," which is used against Shiites."

The Wikipedia page for the Shia city of Sayyidah Zaynab explains, under recent history:

On June 14, 2012, the town became the target of a suicide car bomb attack where around 14 people were heavily wounded.[6] Since mid summer 2012 the town has been under attack from extremist militant fighters in neighbouring Sunni towns. Many Shia and pro government families were driven out of their homes in southern Damascus and sought refuge in Sayyida zainab district. Constant shelling became more frequent in this predominantly Shia town, and rockets landing on random places in the town became common. In January 2013 a mortar shell landed on the Sayyida Zainab shrine causing some damage to one of the minarets.

ISIS Beheads 8 Shia

Islamic State group beheads 8 Shiites in Syria's Hama The video isn't verified, but correlated with other reports and is called legitimate by the SOHR. Teenage boys were involved, leading in the prisoners in their orange jumpsuits and handing out the knives used by 8 masked, adult executioners, who then cut the heads off of the "impure infidels," as declared. A speaker prays to able to do the same to Syria's president Assad, all Alawi (Alawite) "Nuseiries," and Hezbollah. This article points out that one victim might be a Lebanese Sunni kidnapped earlier.

In Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency quoted the family of Younes Hujairi, who was kidnapped from his hometown of Arsal near the Syrian border in January, as saying he had been beheaded. NNA quoted members of Hujairi's family as saying they have seen pictures of an IS fighter carrying his severed head on social media.
It was not clear if Hujairi was one of one of the men beheaded in the video. Hujairi is a Sunni, while the video states that all the beheaded men were Shiites.

And it adds:

The border town of Arsal, where Hujairi was kidnapped, was also the site of a bold joint raid by the Islamic State group and Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front last August that captured two dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen. Four of those hostages have been killed so far, two of them beheaded by IS. The remaining 20 soldiers and policemen remain hostages.

Christians

Threats and attacks of various kinds against Syrian Christian communities have recurred throughout the rebellion. For attacks on clergy, see here. Attacks on church infrastructure (churches, mainly) are very common, but here we'll focus on violent attacks on community members themselves, which seem to be religiously motivated and pretty much from the anti-government side, although some incidents are disputed.

Historic Christian towns in and around the Qalamoun mountains (running between Homs and Damascus) came under fire in the fall of 2013, as rebels scrambled to find new footholds. At least two town takeovers led by al-Qaeda and Islamist units are covered here:

  • Assault on Maaloula: Probably the world's only Aramaiac-speaking town, set into the mountains north of Damascus, it was overrun by Islamists on September 4. The government kind-of-controlled it again the next day, and apparently better by now. No clear massacre reports at this time, but the investigation here could use some work.
  • Sadad Massacre: A town mentioned in the bible's Old Testament, pretty peaceful until October 21. Rebels ran it for about a week before the Army finally drove them away. There are details suggesting a massacre, if not enormous, and plenty of troubling abuses.
  • Assault on Deir Attiya Nov. 2013

Other Christian Massacres:

Sources

The site Thereligionofpeace.com - not the best source - has a list of "Islamic Terror Attacks on Christians (Since 9/11)." Just for a starter reference, it will work. There are 14 entires for attacks in the span of the Syrian uprising, starting and apparently ending in 2012, but coming through as generally crimes of the opposition, stupidly referred to as "Sunnis," as if that's their main problem. Entries include:

  • Sunnis detonate a bomb outside an Orthodox church that leaves at least twenty dead (Aleppo, Nov. 16)
  • An 84-year-old Christian is murdered by Sunnis (Homs, October 30)
  • Three Christians are killed in targeted attacks - two while waiting in line at a bakery (Damascus, January 15, 2012)
  • Twelve people (killed, 69 wounded) outside a bakery in a Christian district are exterminated in a targeted bomb attack (Jaramana, Oct. 28)
  • A bomb targeting Christians on their way to church leaves thirteen dead
  • An Orthodox priest is horribly tortured and murdered by Muslim 'criminals'. His eyes were gouged out.
  • The 'Islamic Brigade' stops a car carrying a Christian family, force them out and then massacre them, including the two children.

Two incidents they missed: one was the August, 2012 Jandar Resort Massacre, not far south of Homs. Three of the victims in this family have the same name, as listed here-Mtanious. It sounds Greek, and is recognizable from the Homs area. Georgina Mtanious Jamal is a Christian woman from Homs proper, whose son Sari Saoud was shot dead nine months earlier, she's pretty sure, by rebel snipers who then snatched his body to make videos blaming the government. (see Our page on this story, and/or this external article based on it. Whether religion was a factor is not clear, but the rebels who snatched Sari's body to film were transfixed by the crucifix necklace his mother was wearing that day. They could also have held a grudge against her and her family for the anti-rebel rants she and they delivered at the hospital, leading to the thing in August.

In March 2013, AP reported on the Christian town of Yacoubieh, in the north, conquered by rebels in February, as a prism for looking at the national problem of minorities in "liberated" areas. Churches were damaged and taken over as rebel militant bases, and many residents fled. But the rebel commander spoken to ("Hakim") promised freedom for the remaining majority - Christians could even drink alcohol, privately, for the time being. No gross violations come through in the report, but locals apparently weren't interviewed. It's been assured that Christians will be tried fairly in the Islamic courts set up "in the absence of any other government," and stoning and hand-severing will be suspended until after the war.

Two dispatches from the Catholic FIDES news agency relate the suffering of Christians in the north following the Turkish-assisted rebel attack on Ras Al-Ayn in November. 2012-11-30 ASIA/SYRIA - A young Christian of the opposition: "Minorities crushed in the conflict" According to a note from a young man of a Christian family in Syria, the FSA attackers had a "black list," with which ...

...they went from one house to another looking for their enemies. Among these were the names of the heads of Christian families. Why? ".
[...]
In Ras al-Ain, the victims were not only Christians, but Christians were the only ones who were immediately expelled from their homes, carrying babies in their arms, put to flight the streets strewn with corpses. Such intervention is that of an army of invaders and not an army of liberators, as the Army of the opposition call themselves.

Another - 2012-11-23 ASIA/SYRIA - Christians in high Mesopotamia refuse to take up arms. Bishops' appeal to the Pope and the leaders of Nations: avoid the catastrophe that is upon us - notes a growing refugee problem, the threat of a rebel advance into high Mesopotamia with its large Christian population. Clerics and Bishops in Syria united to demand the goverment and the "Salafists" stay out. Some at least were refusing offers of defensive weapons, renouncing any fighting against anyone, instead issuing an "urgent appeal to Benedict XVI and the Leaders of nations, asking them to put pressure so that armed groups do not come in our region."

Aid to the Church in Need has rushed through a series of new emergency aid packages as hunger and sub-zero temperatures threaten the lives of people across Syria and neighbouring countries. ... Destitute communities in Homs, Marmarita and Sadad are receiving £75,000 each and a further £41,500 is bound for Nebek. Last month, Aid to the Church in Need announced a £33,000 aid package for 215 destitute Christian families taking shelter in Damascus in a scheme organised by Homs, Marmarita and Sadad.
The aid – on top of the charity's aid packages topping £2.5 million dating back almost to the start of the Syrian crisis – comes amid reports that the region is on course to suffer its worst winter for 100 years ... (and) worsening reports of violence against Christians in what is fast becoming one of the worst phases of sustained persecution of the new millennium.
Latest reports say up to 600,000 Syrian Christians – a third of the total – are either displaced within the country or living as refugees in neighbouring countries. Highlighting the massive exodus of Christians from Syria, Aid to the Church in Need's Middle East projects coordinator Fr Andrzej Halemba said: "It is now a case of to be or not to be for the future of Christians in Syria." ... He said: "The number of Christians killed because they are targeted for their faith is growing. Sadad is a very clear case. They were slaughtered like animals."
  • In Lebanon, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish is running a sanctuary where people hesitate to register, gearing Islamists will get the list. Two residents are spoken to:
  • Basman Kassouha said: "They stormed my house, giving me one hour to evacuate or else they would kill me." Mr Kassouha has tried to start a new life in Lebanon, but urgently needed help to feed his family. He said: "I live here in two rooms in Barbara Quarter. I'm trying my best to find work to support my family. I'm heartbroken. I've lost everything."
  • 50-year-old Fadi Gearous Kassouha: "My house is burned down. All my life savings have gone and I'm left with nothing. I have six children. May God forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."

Ethnic Groups

  • Druze. Many of them live near Syria-Israel border/Golan heights, in Northern Israel or in Southern Syria. Those in Israel, serve in IDF (at a greater rate than Arabs), and are well presented in the government. In this interview, an Israeli Druze explains that culturally they are loyal to existing authority, and in public support public views prevalent on the street. Druze in Syria consider Islamist as main danger. Prior to the war, they were alright with Asad. Right now, there main concern is defending their own communities, not defending somebody else. He also explains that there is a culture of hypocrisy not understood by Europeans or Russians. As an illustration, he says that in public Arab neighbors of Israel are super critical, as saying something else would be embarrassing and shameful, but in reality they see Iran as the main danger.
  • The Assyrians of Syria, History and Prospets, Mardean Isaac, Syria Comment, December 20, 2015

Persecution of Syria's Minorities by the Government

The rebels and opposition often accuse the government of using the minorities against them in various ways, frightening them with scary stories of post-Assad Syria. Sometimes, as at Jaramanah in late November, it's alleged the government scares them with things like car bombs in a Christian neighborhood that, otherwise, would look like a rebel attack. (see A Damascus Whodunnit)

One of the more troubling examples is the alleged Aqrab Massacre of some 200 Alawite civilians. Rebels said a house with 200 hostages was blown up by their (Alawite) Shabiha captors, and then shelled and bombed by the Syrian military, just to blame the rebels. That was a lie, the world has decided, and only the rebels are responsible for what happened (and we don't know what happened).

Elections, 2014

5 June, 2014. Parliament speaker says Assad won 88.7 percent of votes in Syria's presidential poll. The head of the Supreme Constitutional Court said that the turnout in the country's presidential election this week was 73.42 percent. The opposition and its international backers have denounced the election as a farce, saying the two relatively unknown and state-approved challengers offered no real alternative to Assad. Voting was held only in government-controlled areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that are in rebel hands. The US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to neighboring Lebanon that the elections were "a great big zero." [2]

9 July, 2014. Syria's Western-backed opposition, the National Coalition, elected Hadi al-Bahra, chief negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as its new president on Wednesday after a three-day meeting in Istanbul. The United States and other key powers have designated the National Coalition as the main body representing the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but it has little power inside Syria where disparate militant groups outside its control hold ground. [3]

Interviews

Opinions

References

  1. al-Nusra Front execute 5 persons in al-Shaddadi Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Facebook page. Posted February 17, 2013.
  2. Assad re-elected in wartime election Aljazeera, 5 June, 2014.
  3. Syria's Western-backed opposition elects new president Reuters, 9 July, 2014.