Syria's Druze minority shifting its support to opposition: Report

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 10:10 hrs

Opposition activists and rebel military commanders have said that members of Syria's Druze community, a small but significant religious minority, are joining the opposition in bigger numbers, ramping up pressure on government of President Bashar al-Assad.

As the Syrian conflict has devolved into a bloody sectarian war, with many Sunni Muslims backing the opposition, some of the country's minorities, including the Druze and Christians, have largely sat on the sidelines.

According to the Washington Post, Assad has managed to maintain the support of many of his fellow Alawites.

Farid Khazen, a Lebanese parliamentarian and professor of Middle East politics at the American University of Beirut, said that the Assad government is trying to keep the Druze and other minority communities at bay to make sure they don't side with the opposition.

The Druze community in Syria has a population of around 700,000, and has a history of rebelling under authoritarian leaders, rising up during the rule of the Ottomans as well as the French.

According to the report, some of the Druze in more mixed areas, such as Idlib province in the northwest of Syria, joined protests and even fought with units of the Free Syrian Army early on.

Since last summer, there have been at least four car bombs in Jaramana, a Damascus suburb with predominantly Druze and Christian residents.

One double car bombing in late November left at least 45 dead and more than 120 wounded, according to opposition activists.

The Syrian government has routinely blamed the attacks in Jaramana on "terrorists," its label for the opposition, but opposition activists say the government itself is carrying out the attacks to heighten fears of sectarian warfare.

For some, the danger seems all too real. "The biggest danger for the Druze is the sectarian violence against them," Aline, a 24 year-old Druze woman from Jaramana who recently fled to Beirut to escape the violence, said.

"In the end nobody knows when the situation will get out of hand," she added.

Yet there is now even a Druze-dominated unit of rebel fighters, the Bani Maarouf battalion, operating in the Damascus suburbs, including Jaramana, which was formed in late December.

According to the report, what has led some Druze to support the opposition is what has also motivated many other ordinary Syrians. The government's apparent inability to provide security or even the most basic services, according to opposition activists.

The divided loyalties among the Druze, with some supporting the government and some opposing it, have even split families.

Tamer, the fighter from Sweida, says some of the people in his own village no longer talk to him because of his ties to the rebels, the report added. (ANI)

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