Syria's Minorities & Split Loyalties: Through the Sectarian Lens
As the Syrian conflicts escalates, showing little sign of abating, or of effective intervention, the whole world has been abuzz with the prospect of Syria slipping into a sectarian scenario reminiscent of Iraq and Lebanon.
Syria is a complex not homogenous landscape Continue reading below »
A breakdown of the ethnic minorities and the religious sects of Syria uncovers a picture of confused and conflicting allegiences beset by an ambivalence in orientation toward the regime. The diverse make-up of the minorities of the country alone are not simple to decipher. To make matters more interesting, minority complex usually spawns secretive religious sects who dissemble or refuse to discuss their religion, in order to avoid persecution and so as to increase prospects of survival. Determining the Syrian landscape of political allegiances in times of Syrian unrest and fear for future security is no easy feat. So far, the revolution has contained a whole soup of religious and ethnic orientations spread between the opposition camp and a loyal regime following.
Which sides of the revolution are Syria's minorities (collectively?) and the majority Sunni sect taking?
Some say there cannot be a sectarian war in a minority ruling country. People doubt the capacity of minorities to wage a civil war.
Hundreds of detained citizens are Christians. Equally among the thousands of 'martyr's' from the revolution a substantial number have been Christian.
While Christians are seen to be firm supporters of the regime, concerns rippling regionally for Christian welfare in times of revolution have been heightened. Syrians remember their Iraq counterparts fleeing to Syrian territory after 2003. Egypt’s Copts have fared no better since the fall of Mubarak, fuelling religious paranoia. There are rumors in the Damascus' Christian neighborhood, Bab Touma, of a Christian mass-exodus to Beirut. Chants heard at revolution rallies have been to the tune of: "Alawis to the coffins and Christians to Beirut."
Religious and Ethnic Minorities:
The population of Syria is approximated at 75% Sunni Muslim, with a 12% Alawi, 10% Christian, and 3% Druze population. Other religions include Yazidis. Combined, some 90% of the Syrian population is Muslim, which includes Arabs and minorities of Kurds and Circassians. Some 10% are Christians, mainly including ethnic Assyrians, as well as Arab Christians, and Armenians. Ethnic minorities include Kurdish (9%), Assyrian/Syriac, Armenian, and Circassian populations, while the majority is Arab (80%). Alawi, Ismaili and collectively 'Shia' make up a rough 13%.
Converting persecution into power:
Inside cultural references or folklore, tells the dramatic tale of how Alawis rose to power from disenfranchisement, from the subjugation of their daughters who served Sunni masters. In the current climate, old resentment is stirred afresh.
Finally, given the rich variety of this topic inside Syria, what are YOUR thoughts as Syrians, Arabs or curious parties?
A penny for your thoughts!
Share your comments in the space below: Do you think that Syria will spill into a sectarian civil war in the eventuality of the current regime falling? How would such a conflict play out? What shape would alliances take?
- Down from the mountain: Druze in Syria show growing resistance to Assad
- War through the lens
- As Syria’s bloody conflict spills over borders, are we on the brink of regional warfare?
- The future of the Middle East: war, sectarianism and strife or...Jordanian robots?
- Sects in the Cities: meet 10 minority religions in the Middle East