The Syrian spring: what will become of the minorities?

The Arab world has kept the rest of the world fixated and on their toes as the future of the Middle East unravels before our eyes. Syria has had to endure brutality in the last five months in the name of change; the majority of Syrians wants to see the end of the 40-year Baath dictatorship which has suppressed their rights and freedom in the hope that president Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown. Images of protestors have been plastered all over our television screens. We've seen victory in Egypt where people-power overthrew the Mubarak regime, however it was not long before problems rose within the Egyptians themselves as Muslims and Christians clashed against each other which the media wasted no time to defame and use to their advantage.

Is this the future of the different religious groups in Syria?

The Alawites, a shia sect, Christians and the Druze are the main minorities in Syria - heavily protected under the regime, Alwaites, more than the rest, have an assured support from Assad as he is an Alawi himself.

Who will look after the religious minorities if Assad is overthrown?

The Alawites make up 16% of the Syrian population. They have had a strong influence in the regime since it began in 1963. The Alawites who lived in 'Alawite Mountains along the Mediterranean coast of Syria' are primarily working class and make a living out of agriculture. The regime integrated the Alawites with the rest of the community, giving them more access to educational and economic opportunities. This protection has given the regime undivided support from the Alawites during the Syrian spring - if Assad is overthrown the Alawites fear that they will be undermined and suppressed by the predominant Sunni population.

The Christians in Syria on the other hand have mixed feelings about the Syrian spring and Assad's regime. For the last 40 years, the 16% Christian population have enjoyed great security from the regime and fear the worst without it - the clash between Muslims and Christians in Egypt is what could potentially be their fate; but is their fear built on paranoia?

An article on npr.org describes how a Christian man living Syria is "convinced that protesters are Muslim extremists and wants no part of their demands because they are destroying Syria in this way". However there are many Christians who, like the majority, want to see political reforms which will benefit them too and believe that the protestors are fighting for something which is beyond religious differences.

There isn't a conclusion that can sum up the Syrian revolution and what's to come for the Syrian minorities because they are living each day out of a history book to be written. What could be said is that the frustration which the majority feel with the regime is equal to the frustration which the minorities would feel without it; many protestors themselves fear sectarian conflict which is why "they say that they would prefer to give Mr Assad time to implement the political reforms rather than risk instability or sectarian strife".

We read of the Muslim conquest which says how the minorities paid taxes just to live in their own home. In my view if Syria wants to see reforms, they must ensure that history does not repeat itself by sidelining the minorities whatever the outcome of Assad's future may be.

Images from The Damascus Bureau and BBC News.

Comments

Rahima Begum

A great read. Thank you Fori

07 July 2011 delete
Mai Jahjah

Deep subject and well written article. Well done

08 July 2011 delete