Who Are the ‘Syrian People’?

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Speaking at the UN Security Council last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, “It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.” And the day after the Security Council vote with Russia and China vetoing the resolution to adopt the Arab League plan, a frustrated Mrs. Clinton repeated her call to “support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”

The problem of Mrs. Clinton and others who express such concern for the ongoing internecine violence in Syria is that they constantly issue pronouncements about the “Syrian people” as if it was a homogeneous national grouping. Her ignorance was further demonstrated when speaking to reporters during a visit Sunday in Bulgaria. She said: “the international community had a duty to halt continuing bloodshed and promote a political transition that would see Mr. Assad step down.” Can she honestly believe Basher al-Assad will simply agree to resign?

If one is to ever develop a coherent and attainable goal-oriented Syrian policy, one first has to understand the various groupings and allegiances at play.

The “Syrian people” is a composite of religious and ethnic groups who historically oppose each other. The dominant group, approximately two thirds of the population are Sunni Muslims; 12 percent are Alawites; 9 percent are Kurds; 10 percent are various Christian sects (Arab Christians, Assyrians and Armenians); and the remainder are a hodgepodge of religio-ethnic groups including Druze, Turkmens and Circassians.

Let’s focus on the Sunni, the Alawites and the Kurds. The Sunni majority includes the Muslim Brotherhood. It is subjugated by the ruling Alawites led by the al-Assad family. The Sunni majority, which lost power in the takeover of Syrian rule by the Alawite-dominated secular nationalist Syrian Baathist Party in a 1963 coup, began to cause increasingly violent unrest led by the Muslim Brotherhood. This later developed into open revolt.

In 1980, after an assassination attempt against President Hafez al-Assad failed, he came down on them like a ton of bricks, literally. In 1982, the city of Hama, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, was destroyed by regular Syrian army forces, including tanks and artillery, commanded by Rifat al-Assad, Hafez’s younger brother. An estimated 20,000 residents of Hama were killed. The revolt was quelled and the Alawite al-Assad family continued to rule.

However, the real dispute goes way back. The Sunni majority view the Alawite minority as heretics. The Alawites, or Alawi as they called themselves because of their adherence to Ali (the Muslim prophet, Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law), were originally called by the Sunnis the “Nusayri” after the Shi’ite Ibn Nusayr in the 9th century, indicating their break with Islam. After 1920 and French rule in Syria (which included Lebanon), the persecuted Alawites ingratiated themselves with the new rulers.

The French encouraged Alawites to join the French-commanded Syrian army and dominate the officer corps as a counterweight to the hostile Sunni majority. This subsequently set the stage for the Alawite dominance of the Baath Party and the 1963 takeover of the Syrian government.

The Kurds, while only 9 percent of the total Syrian population, comprise the majority of the Jazira province, and are affiliated with major Kurdish populations in neighboring Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Historically, the Kurds once ruled their own land known as Kurdistan which included eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northern Syria. The Kurds in all of these countries are persecuted by the current ruling regimes in their respective countries.

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  • ziontruth

    "The 'Syrian people' is a composite of religious and ethnic groups who historically oppose each other."

    Multiculturalism. A post-national construct that keeps an appearance of being workable when there's a tyrant to keep the simmering differences under the lid. But only an appearance; for when the tyrant is gone and not immediately succeeded by another one, all hell breaks loose. As in Lebanon, Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

    Multiculturalism. An anti-national Marxist pie-in-the-sky concept cleverly designed to mask the treasonous goal of replacing the nation-state with an international socialist order—masked under the nice-sounding labels of "Celebrate Diversity!" and such. A vision whose rotten fruits are already evident in the nation-states of Western Europe, where the indigenous have been made practically stateless in their own lands.

    Syria and Lebanon, Yugoslavia and current Western Europe, all are warnings unto the Jewish State as to what such fine-sounding, "progressive" (or make that "Progressive," the name Marxists now call themselves) concepts as "One State Solution, With Equal Rights For All" portend for the Jewish nation's one and only homeland and true sanctuary in the world. It is why, in the event that an Israeli government should be foolish enough as to give up Judea and Samaria to the Arab settler-colonist invader land-thieves, their imperialist struggle to obliterate the remnant pre-1967 Jewish State would not cease, but pass onto a new phase, of pressuring Israel to "get with the program" of multiculturalism and commit national suicide just like the nation-states of Western Europe.

    The anti-Zionists say, "If the Europeans have done it, so can Israel." The knowledgeable Zionist who gets his information from reliable sources instead of the largely Marxist-owned mainstream media will reply, "It has not been good for the Europeans either. The man in the street, as opposed to the media chatterati, can tell you all about it. Given the level of anti-Jewish genocidal mania in the Muslim world, the Jewish State can afford such a costly experiment far, far less than the nation-states of Europe."

    Multiculturalism: The way to becoming like the Copts in Egypts. Any nation with its survival instinct still intact will reject it for the treasonous idea it is.

  • george a. way jr.

    once again our leaders ( fools in the real world ) have their heads up there asses and in return this nation gets another "black eye" ,

  • Asher

    You mean support like we gave Egypt and Libya, who are now Controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • KKKK

    good article, Atlas. and the "rebeks" are acutally attacking Syrian Christiansm havign alread killed 100+. while Assad is far from the ideal, he is certianly better than nay AlQaeda-linked Sunni Sharia-based government.

  • shane

    i say let them fight for there self …I remember when we went into Iraq and them jihadists was marching in the streets say death to America …now they want our help to hell with that !!!!!

  • ObamaYoMoma

    One can only wonder how such totally naïve and incompetent people can become Secretary of State. Any competent Secretary of State wouldn't touch the issue of Syria with a 10-foot poll, as both sides, the Assad led Alawites and the Muslim Brotherhood led Sunnis, are the eternal enemies of the West and all non-Muslim unbelievers in the world.

    Indeed, I know this may sound strange, but Muslim on Muslim violence inside the Dar al Islam (the domain of submission) is good for us, the Dar al Harb (the domain of unbelief), and bad for the Dar al Islam. Hence, the last thing the USA should be attempting to do is to stop the violence.

    Not to mention as well, that Assad will never voluntarily surrender power and inevitably will fight to the death, and democracy in the Islamic world in any case is absolutely impossible. As Islam more than anything else is a totalitarian ideology completely antithetical to freedom and liberty. Therefore, anyone wishing and hoping to tame the Islamic world by spreading democracy is a mentally incompetent moonbat.

    Of course, the ouster of Assad would weaken Iran, but I would prefer to leave the Assad regime sidetracked in Syria trying to hold on to power, while we instead eradicate the ruling Mullahs of Iran and destroy their nuclear weapons installations.

    • ahmadnb

      Can anyone say "Bangladesh"? Man, what rock have you been living under?

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Can anyone say "Bangladesh"?

    What…you claim "Bangladesh" is a democracy? Go sell that snake oil to the violently oppressed and systematically non-Muslim unbelievers stuck living in that Islamic hellhole.

    Man, what rock have you been living under?

    The one that let's me see the world with crystal clear morality. Something you wouldn't know anything about.