The Alawites: Fact, Fiction and Fear!


There is a stench to poverty and it still lingers in the corners of the houses of Alawites in Syria. Forty years have gone by , yet it is still there – never forsaking them.

Not much is known about the history of the Alawites not because there isn’t much but because so few have documented the lives and tragedies of these people. You can find it if you search well in certain books, but you are more likely to come across it in a more honest way in the eyes of the older generation. It is all there- hardship, denial, deprivation and yes fear too.

How they came to live on the harshest of mountains in Syria where only beasts lived is a question with more than one answer. Different sources tell different tales – but it amounts to the same. Massacre after massacre, each time by a different foe, but mainly by the Ottomans, resulted in the Alawites fleeing the cities where they used to live and seeking sanctuary in the cold mountains. It was very much a policy of displace and then replace. The Alawites were displaced from their urban dwellings and quickly replaced by other inhabitants. The end result was that they lived in almost complete isolation, mixing with their Christian neighbours and embracing many Christian traditions and festivals in the hope of avoiding recognition.

It was only with the arrival of the French occupation that the Alawites of Syria were able to lose some of that fear. Ever the imperialists, the French, gave the Alawites their minimum rights. Rights they hadn’t even dared dream about. The Alawites had their own state(surprisingly many Alawites were against this) and their men were allowed to enlist in the French army- a chance grabbed at by many young men of that area, for it gave them an opportunity to earn money and travel. However French dreams of strengthening the minorities to the point that they would rise and fight against a unified independent Syria failed miserably. Saleh Al Ali(an Alawite from Tartous) was one of the foremost revolutionaries demanding a unified whole Syria free from French occupation.

In 1946 Syria gained its independence but the Alawites continued to be poor, not in the same fierce way that they had been before, but very poor nonetheless, protected by the very things that they were victim to- poverty and isolation. They continued their existence on their savage mountains always fearing to venture into cities for they were ridiculed and mocked for their bad sense of dress and their rough accents.

With the birth of the Ba’ath( which means renaissance or resurrection) came hope for the poor and the downtrodden. Ba’athists ideology is based on socialists principles and enlightenment. It is a secular ideology in which the ruling class is replaced by a revolutionary progressive class. For the poor of Syria of whom the Alawites represented only a minority, it was like a walk to freedom.

Events turned rapidly in Syria and coup followed coup and it wasn’t until 1970 that Syria settled down under president Hafiz Al Assad- a Ba’athist from the Alawite mountains. It was a chance for Alawites to better their lot and they came in their hordes to the cities seeking government jobs and enlisting in the military academy as they always had.

That some used and abused their power(as all do who come to power) is undoubted and that there was corruption and cronyism is undoubted and that there was a lot of fiction and fabrications spun around the Alawites is undoubted too ! Fabrications of sexual abandonment and impiety, of strange pagan customs and unholy alliances evolved and flourished. The Alawites were easy targets with their ignorance of the mannerisms of city dwellers and their rough accents – but they were easy targets too because it was thought that they crossed the line that the rest of society didn’t dare cross.

Their villages became relatively better places to live in with electricity and running water. Schools were built and roads were paved. Their fear of mixing with the other dwindled but never ever disappeared.

With the arrival of the Syrian ” revolution” in 2011 the Alawites found themselves facing their ancient fears again. But they were not the only ones this time. They were joined by other minorities like the Christians, the Druze , and the Ismailies. Secular Sunnis also joined in this fear. The Syrian ”revolution” from the beginning failed to offer assurances to these minorities. Sitting in European capitals, the opposition offered the minorities honeyed words but on the ground, the picture was completely different .Minorities were targeted. The Druze in Jaramanah, the Christians in Ma’loula and the Alawites in their coastal regions.

In August the Alawites were attacked in the places they had considered as the safest-their mountainous villages! It was as if all their nightmares had returned. The younger generation were able to identify the truth of what happened to their ancestors for they saw a repeat of it themselves. Their villages (Abu Makeh, Obin, Beit Shakouhi, Bloutah, Hamboushieh to mention only some) were raided, their houses burned, their men killed and their women raped! Oh, but there was a condition to the rape of Alawite women! They must not be pregnant!!So wrote a Kuwaiti, who funded these armed terrorist groups Dr. Shafi Al Ajamy on twitter on the 4th of August-they must not be pregnant lest there be a mix-up in lineage(scientifically incorrect)!! Hundreds of Alawites continued to be massacred in their villages until the Syrian Army arrived and the villages were liberated from the armed terrorist groups.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-apparently Observatory for only some Syrians and not all- hardly dwelled on what had happened and what was even more surprising was that the media in Syria didn’t give these massacres their due. It was as if they were too ashamed to talk of what they had thought would never happen again. No serious attempt was made to publicize these massacres and they were hardly mentioned in Western media. No official complaint was made against the “Syrian National Coalition” which harbours these armed groups and no request for an official investigation was made either, for what happened in Syria was ethnic cleansing no mistake about it. Ethnic cleansing carried out with the blessing of the West and the funding of Gulf countries and Saudi!

Today the Alawites of Syria remain afraid and generally misunderstood-for them what is happening in Syria is a war and they are the targets and the fight is over their very existence. Like an abused child they have nowhere to turn to and like an abused child they keep their secret well and just as in olden days when they were too afraid to talk –their fear has revisited them!

Reem Haddad can be reached at reem.haddad@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?