- Middle East -
The Alawites belong to the Shi’ite community of the Middle East. There are currently about 3 million members of this religious community living in Syria, and they are clearly overrepresented in the country’s armed forces and the political elite, although they are a religious minority. The main reason for this is to be seen in the reign of the Alawite Assad clan, which has been in power for more than 40 years – following a coup on November 16, 1970, led by Hafiz ‘al Assad. Before, the Alawites had suffered from persecution, e.g. during the Ottoman rule, as they were seen as heretics. They often pretended to be Christians, as they were better off under Sharia law than the Alawites. Nonetheless, the Alawites became victims of the Assad regime as well: The members of the Assad clan repeatedly turned against their own religious community, presumably to appease the great Sunni majority.
Since the beginning of the public protests in March 2011, the Alawites have been suffering from retaliatory attacks by the Sunni majority, motivated by their pent-up hatred against the regime. From the viewpoint of the non-Alawite Syrians, they are often seen as beneficiaries of Assad’s system and policies – which is why, after more than four decades in power, the Alawites have to fear for their lives and hide their religion again.
Further information about the Alawite
Header photo: Frank Hurley via Wikimedia Commons