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Published on July 4th, 2012 | by Usman Butt
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] ©FreedomHouse A Syrian man (center) digs the grave for his father who, along with two other men, was kidnapped, then killed by the shabiha, in al-Qsair.[/caption]   Recently ‘Russian Today’ reported that members of the Free Syrian Army desecrated a church in the central city of Homs. This follows reports claiming that 9,000 Christians had to flea from the western Syrian city of Qusayr. The report linked to the above claims that, this was due to the Free Syrian Army taking the town from forces loyal to the President Bashar Al-Assad. The Free Syrian army are the armed wing of the Syrian opposition - opposed against Al-Assad-; they are western backed, with the Americans training and arming them; and is made up of defectors from the Syrian military, on the payroll of Saudi Arabia. They are also made up radical Islamists and Salafis, many of who have moved into the Syrian conflict from Iraq. But most controversial of all the Syrian government calls them terrorist and Al-Qaeda supporters, mostly because they are believed to be behind a series of car bombing in Damascus over the past few months. Syria is a multi-ethnic and religious society, with Sunni Muslim constituting the majority at 74%. It’s believed that minorities are being targeted because of their alleged support for the regime. There is also widespread belief that some Christians are behind Al-Assad’s brutal regime, this makes the Christians a target for the Syrian opposition. Syria as a country was created along sectarian lines with the President and military leaders belonging to a different Islamic sect from the majority Sunnis. The president is an Alwaite, a sect considered heretical by some Sunni extremists. However, it is the regime that has attempted to ignite the flames of sectarian hatred in Syria. Throughout the uprising, the regime has told the country’s various minorities that Sunni Islamist were attempting to take over the country. The regime were doing this long before the Islamists were a prominent feature of the opposition. Alongside this, the regime has been selectively shelling Sunni-neighbourhoods, in places like Homs. On top of this the regime is supposedly using secret militias, called the Shabiha (The Ghosts) to crush the opposition. These Shabiha are made up of volunteers from the same religious sect as the president the Alwaites. Before the uprising they were mostly criminals, bootleggers and drug traffickers. However, since the uprising began they have been formed into a death squad, and are very loyal to the regime. They act out of fear of the Sunni majority and the fear for the future of their sect. The Daily Telegraph recently published an inside story on the Shabiha, in which they explored their motives. They also posted a picture of one Shabih, who is also a cousin of the president. The picture shows a man with extremely large biceps and a tattoo of the president on his arm. The article goes on to describe that the regime has had this reserved militia for many years. The regime would go to gyms across Syria looking for Alwaites to recruit and encouraged them to take steroids in order to enhance their muscles. Because of this, the conflict becomes more sectarian by the day and the fallout is now being felt. The armed opposition is becoming more radical by the day, one Syrian Sunni cleric Adnan al-Aroor in a television broadcast form Saudi Arabia, declared that the opposition should chop the Alwaites up. Although the regime is the main instigator of the violence and has killed the most people, the Free Syria Army may prove to be worse. Although, the Free Syrian Army are currently out gunned and outnumbered by forces loyal to Al-Assad, there is a very real possibility that they may takeover Syria. If this happens, minorities in Syria such the Alwaites and Christians could become a rumour of history. If a religious cleansing is on the horizon the West should be prepared to prevent it.

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In Praise of Hatred: Sectarian War in Syria

©FreedomHouse A Syrian man (center) digs the grave for his father who, along with two other men, was kidnapped, then killed by the shabiha, in al-Qsair.

 

Recently ‘Russian Today’ reported that members of the Free Syrian Army desecrated a church in the central city of Homs. This follows reports claiming that 9,000 Christians had to flea from the western Syrian city of Qusayr. The report linked to the above claims that, this was due to the Free Syrian Army taking the town from forces loyal to the President Bashar Al-Assad. The Free Syrian army are the armed wing of the Syrian opposition – opposed against Al-Assad-; they are western backed, with the Americans training and arming them; and is made up of defectors from the Syrian military, on the payroll of Saudi Arabia. They are also made up radical Islamists and Salafis, many of who have moved into the Syrian conflict from Iraq. But most controversial of all the Syrian government calls them terrorist and Al-Qaeda supporters, mostly because they are believed to be behind a series of car bombing in Damascus over the past few months.

Syria is a multi-ethnic and religious society, with Sunni Muslim constituting the majority at 74%. It’s believed that minorities are being targeted because of their alleged support for the regime. There is also widespread belief that some Christians are behind Al-Assad’s brutal regime, this makes the Christians a target for the Syrian opposition. Syria as a country was created along sectarian lines with the President and military leaders belonging to a different Islamic sect from the majority Sunnis. The president is an Alwaite, a sect considered heretical by some Sunni extremists. However, it is the regime that has attempted to ignite the flames of sectarian hatred in Syria. Throughout the uprising, the regime has told the country’s various minorities that Sunni Islamist were attempting to take over the country. The regime were doing this long before the Islamists were a prominent feature of the opposition.

Alongside this, the regime has been selectively shelling Sunni-neighbourhoods, in places like Homs. On top of this the regime is supposedly using secret militias, called the Shabiha (The Ghosts) to crush the opposition. These Shabiha are made up of volunteers from the same religious sect as the president the Alwaites. Before the uprising they were mostly criminals, bootleggers and drug traffickers. However, since the uprising began they have been formed into a death squad, and are very loyal to the regime. They act out of fear of the Sunni majority and the fear for the future of their sect. The Daily Telegraph recently published an inside story on the Shabiha, in which they explored their motives. They also posted a picture of one Shabih, who is also a cousin of the president. The picture shows a man with extremely large biceps and a tattoo of the president on his arm. The article goes on to describe that the regime has had this reserved militia for many years. The regime would go to gyms across Syria looking for Alwaites to recruit and encouraged them to take steroids in order to enhance their muscles.

Because of this, the conflict becomes more sectarian by the day and the fallout is now being felt. The armed opposition is becoming more radical by the day, one Syrian Sunni cleric Adnan al-Aroor in a television broadcast form Saudi Arabia, declared that the opposition should chop the Alwaites up. Although the regime is the main instigator of the violence and has killed the most people, the Free Syria Army may prove to be worse. Although, the Free Syrian Army are currently out gunned and outnumbered by forces loyal to Al-Assad, there is a very real possibility that they may takeover Syria. If this happens, minorities in Syria such the Alwaites and Christians could become a rumour of history. If a religious cleansing is on the horizon the West should be prepared to prevent it.

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About the Author

Usman Butt

Usman graduated in 2012 with an MA in Palestine Studies from the University Of Exeter. Before that he read Arabic Language and International Relations at the University of Westminster. Amongst his proudest achievements include winning a muffin for public speaking, winning a Lego set at age 5 and helping Palestinian refugees learn English. Usually writes about genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, Israel/Palestinian politics, Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese politics, the Arab Spring, philosophy, religion, British politics, Foreign Policy, history and social issues. He enjoys writing as he sees it as an outlet to express his opinions about the public discourse on these issues. He believes writing is a good way of keeping productive and teaching yourself new things.



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