April 1, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5702

Syrian 'Alawis Slam Assad Regime For Its Treatment Of 'Alawi Sect

April 1, 2014
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 5702

Since the onset of the uprising and fighting against Bashar Al-Assad's regime in March 2011, the common belief has been that the 'Alawi sect, to which Assad belongs, constitutes his major support base. In the three years since the start of the revolution, some 'Alawi voices did object to Assad's conduct [1] but the weight they carried on the Syrian street and within the 'Alawi sect was unclear. However, recently there have been more reports, mostly in media outlets hostile to the Syrian regime, of increasing displeasure with the regime among the 'Alawi sect due to the heavy toll 'Alawis are paying for the association with Assad and also due to the fact that the regime takes their support for granted. This displeasure is also expressed on social media and articles written by 'Alawis.

According to various estimates, since the outbreak of the war tens of thousands of 'Alawis have died, which constitutes a significant portion of its population, estimated at two million. Most of the dead were youths fighting in Assad's defense.[2] In February 2014, the London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that families of youths who had been killed were furious, and quoted them as saying: "Assad sends our children to die... Would he send his own children to die? Assad has not lost any family members."[3]

One of the main reasons for 'Alawi anger with the regime is its handling of the issue of 'Alawis captured by opposition forces. According to 'Alawi sources, the regime does not do enough for them and even refuses to act to release them. This criticism increased following the regime's recent prisoner swap with opposition forces on March 10, 2014, in which the regime released 150 female prisoners in return for 13 nuns kidnapped in December 2013 by Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) in the town of Ma'aloula.[4] This was not the first time that the regime agreed to release prisoners in return for people who were not 'Alawi or even Syrian. In January 2013 the regime released more than 2,000 prisoners in return for 48 Iranians kidnapped by the opposition near Damascus,[5] and in October 2013, it released several dozen female prisoners in return for 9 Lebanese citizens kidnapped in the town of 'Azaz.[6] In fact, there has never been a swap in which the regime released prisoners in return for opposition forces releasing 'Alawi hostages.

The following are several expressions of 'Alawi displeasure with the Assad regime:

Social Media Bloggers: Assad's Policy Is An Existential Threat To 'Alawis

One post that was widely quoted on social media was by Naser Alnukari, who identified himself as an 'Alawi and protested the fact that the regime does nothing to release 'Alawis kidnapped by opposition groups, even though they were kidnapped because of the policies of the regime, which people associate with the 'Alawi sect. Alnukari wrote: "To honorable President Dr. Bashar Hafez Al-Assad: Only today I learned that we 'Alawis are worthless in your country! I was overjoyed at the release of the nuns and thank the gunmen for not demanding that one thousand 'Alawis be executed in return for their [release]!! I have no doubt that you [Assad] thought of this. Where are the 'Alawis of Adra?[7] Where are more than 176 'Alawi women and girls [kidnapped] on the coast?! Have we become meaningless in the eyes of your officials? Are we [mere] property of people we do not know? Tell us the truth! Do you own us 'Alawis? Mr. President, we are those who paid and still pay the price for the lawlessness of your governors and the widespread theft by the officials you appointed, who are not [even] 'Alawis! Did anyone demanded [to return] the bodies of our dead [held] at the Canadian [hospital in Aleppo] or elsewhere?... Excuse me, Mr. President, but your policy has become a real existential threat to 'Alawis! Starting today I am committed to doing anything [I can] to defend myself as an 'Alawi against your lethal policies towards me and towards all 'Alawis! We are human beings! We have feelings and we cry too! Believe me, we are like everyone else, and I hope you do not forget that! During the [entire] history of 'Alawis, from the third century after the Hijra [9th century CE] and until today, they have not faced such extermination. And by whom? By a country whose president is an 'Alawi!!"[8]

Another post that was cited by many media outlets and on social media was by Ahmad War, which was posted on a Facecbook page run by pro-regime 'Alawis. War wrote: "Dear admin, I would like to say some things on your honorable page and I hope you do not delete them, because my heart aches for us and you, since many people are dying like locusts. [I want to express myself even though,] if I speak out, I will probably be called a collaborator... First of all, I am an 'Alawi from Safita [a city in the Tartous governorate with an 'Alawi majority] and I oppose [the regime]. Ask me why I oppose it, and I will respond that it is because we are [being used as] human shields for one family, [the Assad family]. Where in the world has an entire sect died for one family?... You will say [that Islamist elements] kidnapped and beheaded us, and I will respond that the leaked reports about prisoner torture [by the regime could] cause someone to rise from the dead and become an extremist. Every now and then, some asshole [from the regime] leaks a video showing killing and torture perpetrated by people who speak in the coastal [i.e., 'Alawi] dialect, in order to increase hatred [towards the 'Alawis], and then there are killings and beheadings [of 'Alawis]... I don't understand how, for the past three years, we have agreed to [let] our youths defend one family, while the head [of this family] and his relatives sit in a palace... While they act in this criminal fashion, our youths return in body bags from Syria and elsewhere... Every action has a reaction, and the [aforementioned] videos are leaked by the hidden leader [Assad] so that other sects hate us as we stand by him. You can see ambulances bringing dozens of our youths who died for the 'honorable' [Assad]...

"Imagine for a moment that Bashar had stepped down at the start of the Intifada [against him] and how much better off we would have been. I promise you that no one would have besieged us and our country would not have been ruined. But unfortunately we are fools. We thought the [Assad regime] was defending us, and instead we because its slaves. It exploits our weakness to achieve its ambitions of remaining [in power]... Look at how it released the Iranians while there are hundreds of ['Alawi] prisoners [held by the rebels] in Daraa. He released the Lebanese while there are hundreds of ['Alawi] prisoners in Aleppo. He released the nuns while we there are hundreds of ['Alawi] hostages in the rural areas north of Aleppo. [Assad] says he defends minorities and us – but does he?!... We are like stupid mules telling him 'we love you.' Why should I love you? For the explosive barrels that you used to destroy the country, or for the residents who have had to leave their homes, or for the siege we are suffering, or for our prisoners, or for 60% of the ['Alawi] youth, who have died? And after all this we still continue to volunteer. I tell you that if the situation persists another year, there will not be a single youth left..."[9]

'Alawi Writer: There Is A Pro-Assad Group That Can No Longer Live In The Shadow Of His Regime

Naser Alnukari and Ahmad War's posts were quoted by Dima Saadallah Wannous, a Syrian 'Alawi writer, in her article "Why Do We 'Alawis Not Love You?" In the article, Wannous claimed that the posts express the position of a group of Assad supporters who can no longer live in the shadow of his regime in light of its humiliating treatment of the 'Alawis. She wrote: "The comments [evoked by] the release of the kidnapped nuns and their exchange for 150 imprisoned women and little girls, are more important than the deal itself. These comments, whether they come from [regime] opponents or from regime supporters, emerged after the video of the nuns' release aired...

Dima Saadallah Wannous

"What we saw was not a movie. This happened in Syria. The Assad regime exchanged women [prisoners] it held for nuns held by its enemies, just as occurred several months ago in swaps of Iranian and Lebanese prisoners. Responding to these deals, one [regime] supporter expressed his feelings of discrimination and isolation. The regime, which 'defends minorities,' cannot defend its own sect...

"At the end of an atypical day, much like the other atypical days, as darkness falls and a resident of the coast [i.e., an 'Alawi] sits alone, he might grow angry when the anchorwoman on official Syrian TV calls the deal 'historic'!... The numbers lose their importance and the number 13 [the number of nuns] is equal to the number 150 [the number of prisoners released by the regime]... [And it seems] that the Assad regime quite likes humiliating the Syrians by exchanging them for Iranians or for Lebanese. The fancy reporter, who goes to greet the nuns on the Syria-Lebanon border and describes the deal as historic, also quite likes humiliating Syrians. And this is not [about] just any Syrians, but rather regime supporters who sacrificed their sons for the survival of [regime] members...

"The nun... thanked 'the armed terrorist gangs,' 'Mr. President Bashar Al-Assad,' and 'the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad' in a single sentence. She thanked them all and equated their efforts! She did not say that she was rescued from the takfiri terrorist rapists, but rather thanked the 'terrorist groups' for their hospitality. She denied the reporter's claim that they were forced to remove [their] crucifixes. She simply said there were not forced to do anything, that they lived in a place that had everything they needed, and that their kidnappers treated them kindly and politely... The comments by [regime] supporters were split – there was the oppressed side and the shabih[10] side, the side that blames the 'defender of minorities' regime – which did not exchange the prisoners it held for 'Alawi prisoners, or at least for prisoners from the sect that supports [him] politically – and the [shabih] side, which was so shocked [by the nuns' praise for the kidnappers] that it resorted to cheap thuggish behavior, [such as] calling the nuns improper names...

"There is a group among the supporters [of the regime], whose size is unknown, that can no longer live in the shadow of the regime to which it is connected by sect while [this regime] sells it out... just as it sells out the rest of the Syrian people and all its sects. [True, the regime] does not throw explosive barrels at them or bomb them with chemical weapons or arrest them, but it uses them as a cheap human shield without negotiating [their release] or protecting them."[11]


[1] See for example the Facebook pages "The Coordinating Committees Of The Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Al-Assad In The 'Alawi Mountains" (; "The 'Alawi Youth Coalition Against The Al-Assad Family" (, and "Free 'Alawis For The Ouster Of Bashar" (

[2], November 19, 2013.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), February 21, 2014.

[4], March 10, 2014.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 10, 2013.

[6], October 19, 2013.

[7] A city to the northeast of Damascus where Islamist rebels kidnapped and murdered dozens of 'Alawis in December 2013.

[8], March 10, 2014.

[9], March 11, 2014.

[10] Nickname for members of Syrian regime plain-clothes paramilitary forces who assist the security mechanisms in fighting regime opponents.

[11] Al-Mudun (Lebanon), March 11, 2014.

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