An open letter to my Druze and Christian co-religionists in Syria

Syria’s pro-democracy movement is no longer one. It has drowned in the tumultuous waters of a full-blown internecine war. Those of us born in the chaos of the 15-year Lebanese civil war now see a familiar sight in the images of bloody bodies and crumbling buildings that flash across our TV and computer screens. It is now Syria’s turn to suffer escalating violence, a failing economy and the meddling of foreign powers in its civil war.
Violence has consumed opposition strongholds and is slowly spreading to larger cities. The Syrian opposition is stifled by infighting. The US and Europe seem in no hurry to intervene, leaving the crisis to spiral further out of control. 
But more profound hazards await Syria. Increasing sectarianism and the radicalization of the Muslim street are the dangers that will not be quelled with a military solution or an internationally brokered peace.

It is a monster that once awakened will not go back to sleep without a true reconciliation. Lebanon is a living example of this unfortunate reality. In Syria, members of the Druze and Christian communities, along with other minorities, may believe that the wisest course of action is waiting it out to see if the Alwaite Assad regime or the mostly-Sunni opposition gains the upper hand.

They might be fooled into thinking that backing Assad, which most minorities do, will pay off. After all, government troops have fought the opposition Free Syrian Army fighters in their impoverished strongholds. The disorganized and poorly armed rebels have been unable to hold their positions. The Syrian forces have stayed relatively united, and defections have taken place mostly among lower-ranking officers. President Assad’s repression strategy might be working for now, temporarily quelling the insurgency with brutal force. Whole neighborhoods in the various rebel-held regions have been flattened, the residents killed or made refugees. 

“Why take a stand?” many minorities are thinking. The opposition and the regime will fight it out among themselves, or the international community will intervene soon enough to put an end to it.

They are wrong. Violence is spreading. Rebel tactics are slowly changing, and they are coming to rely more on guerilla warfare. Pipelines are being bombed, and targeted assassinations taking place. In spite of the army’s crackdown, the opposition is still clinging to its rural strongholds, and the fighting is reaching closer to the once-safe capital of Damascus. There was even a pitched battle a few kilometers away from President Assad’s residence last month. Human Rights Watch has documented kidnappings, detentions, torture, and the execution of civilians and members of the security forces, which it attributed to armed opposition elements.

And it is becoming more sectarian. There have been attacks targeting Alawites, the sect from which the ruling family hails. Damascus and the country’s industrial center, Aleppo, have been shaken by a series of explosions, the latest by the newly formed Jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra. Salafist movements, which in the past were only marginal, are slowly but surely gaining support and are being egged on by radical imams and jihadi bloggers.

The longer Assad keeps on attributing the violence to “armed terrorist cells” and denying the regime’s actions, the more resentment it will foster. Every image of destroyed neighborhoods and corpses neatly tied in white shrouds sends waves of anger through the populace. As the rift deepens, the regime will draw in Syrian minorities, standing opposite the Sunni majority.

Assad is running out of time. He might still have a fragile upper hand, but his grip on the country is undoubtedly shaken. :  President Assad strategy might be working for now, momentarily quelling the insurgency without being successful in dealing the massive final blow necessary to ensure the regime’s long-term survival. With the country’s coffers emptying at a startling speed, it his highly doubtful that Assad will have the means to rebuild the nation, a first step in the process of winning back the hearts of the people.

Humiliation breeds radicalism, and marginalized masses will only turn inward the longer the standstill continues.

Minorities cannot be perceived as staying on the sidelines. A nation is strong when its people share a similar interpretation of history. There can be no winners or losers. Time does not heal all wounds. Syrian minorities can’t rely on wishful thinking alone. They need to take a stand. For history, if not for their own survival.

  • Mick

    Tarek, you should be ashamed of urself. Ur propably one of those elite's who have benefitted greatly from that atrocious regime. This is where the tragedy lies. You have sunni's that have special alliances with the regime who don't really care about any one except themselves and there finances. They believe everything fed to them by the regime is fact, even through they know its not true. Tarek refuses to believe the reality on the ground occuring in Syria, prefering that it is not happening. Well, I'm afraid it is happening, all of it. It is true syria is one. It's bashar who is creating the sectarian tensions and no one else. You seem to be bothered by qatar and the Saudi's but you seem to have forgotten the interference of Iran and its allies, hezbollah and al sadr forces.

    April 11, 2012

  • Mick

    How do the christian communitiee feel when told their survival hinges on assad remaining in power. If that's the only prospect they have in the region, then I feel sorry for them. The regime has frightened the minorties by feeding them propaganda and lies. Scare mongering by the regime has been a very useful tool for decades. At the same time, don't expect the suffering sunni population to bend backwards in accommodating the minorties when they wouldn't even help in the demonstrations. The sunni population in Syria is the largest. Its about time the minorties stop nagging and come to there senses and start supporting there brotherly Syrians other then there own communities. Assad is creating sectarian tension by dividing the communities, so his regime can survive. I honestly thought the minorities would have been smarter then this.

    April 11, 2012

  • ali daoud

    guys, if you are happy with what`s going on in Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, and Egypt, then you may dream of toppling Bashar, however, Bashar will disappoint you all, he is strong, his army is united and strong, he is smart enough to outsmart those retarded backward filthy arab gulf "democratic" kingdoms along with the USA and israel. Bashar is there to stay, and his terrorist opposition is doomed to fail and vanish, we all followed the news about the slaughter and the masacres committed by the syrian opposition, i wonder, where is the revolution some are talking about, i don`t see but gangs and terrorists bombing and slaughtering innocents and claiming they want democracy, who is the fool to believe them?! we all know that many Libyans are fighting in syria, do you guys hope to import the "successful democratic" Libyan experience into syria?!!!! Vive Bashar, down israel and the filthy Arab puppets.

    April 10, 2012

  • name

    Annoniem you are describing the Islamist Hamas regime in Gaza.

    April 7, 2012

  • samir

    It is true Minorities must support this sacred revolution not because they will be killed after the butcher bashar's fall, but for the sake of their country. However, Syria's vast majority 85% are Sunni's so their is no worry for a secterian civil war. The wise thing to do to save Syria is for bashar assad to step down to save his country more blood shed.

    April 7, 2012

  • Al gassasseneh

    The last comment was for Adam, I omitted from the comment by mistake.

    April 6, 2012

  • tarek

    It's also worth noting that not all Sunnis are against Bashar. I'm a Lebanese Sunni and I support the Baath Regime, and so do my Syrian cousins living in the suburbs of Damascus. The only ones who made this a sectarian conflict were the Saudis and Qataris. Syria is one. You never heard the words "Sunni" "Christian" "Alawite" "Druze" in that country until this conflict began.

    April 5, 2012

  • Al gassasseneh

    I think you and people who think like you never have thought process ( and not to repeat your wards, who has mind to think), like this remarkable opposition and how it is attracting minorities with its actions on the ground and its fake statements and slogans that even the layman knows it is not true, so how about minorities who are fearful of what the other side has done so far, and by the way whoever spilled blood should be accountable and that should include this opposition, and believe me your Syria is as dear to us as it is to you

    April 5, 2012

  • Rachida

    The Assad dynasty has always relied on divide and rule, as every repressive regime and empire always has. The same tactic works just as well for Tel Aviv, pitting Hamas against Fateh, and is working in Bahrain too; pit Sunni against the majority Shia, convince the former that any uprising is about terrorism, not about justice, and cement your hold on power. Until the people come together for freedom and unity and reject division and sectarianism, that tactic will continue to work.

    April 5, 2012

  • Abbas Fawaz

    Guys come on listen to majd no one knows more about using empty slogans than him, it's his métier.

    April 5, 2012

  • ADAM

    A courageous stand should be taken by the minorities to support the oppositions against the terrorist Bashaar. After 1-year of revolution, it became undoubtedly clear to me and everyone who has a mind to think that Alassad should pay for every drop of blood in my beloved Syria. Iran & Hizbollat should not be left unpunished. This is by far the most blessed revolution that will live forever. Thanks Mona

    April 5, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Mona Alami, your position is a clear call for the minorities in syria to move against Bashar, that is a clear call for a civil war in syria, please don`t hide behind empty slogans that were never true neither in Tunisia, nor in Egypt and surely not in warrying Libya.

    April 4, 2012