News / Middle East

Alawites Fear Future as Syrian Conflict Intensifies

Alawites Fear Future As Syrian Conflict Intensifiesi
|| 0:00:00
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 20, 2012 12:13 AM
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and many within his powerful inner circle are Alawites, who make up around 12 percent of the Syrian population. Alawite militia gangs known as shabiha are often blamed for carrying out the worst atrocities in anti-government areas. But many Alawites in Syria and neighboring Turkey say they are not party to that violence. Henry Ridgwell travelled to the Syria-Turkey border and found that many Alawites are not loyal to President Assad.
Henry Ridgwell
ANTAKYA, Turkey — Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and many within his powerful inner circle are Alawites, who make up about 12 percent of the Syrian population. Alawite militia gangs known as shabiha have often been blamed for carrying out the worst atrocities in anti-government areas. Many Alawites in Syria and neighboring Turkey say they are not party to that violence, however, and are not loyal to Assad.

Inside a Cem house, an Alawite place of worship, in the Turkish city of Gaziantep close to Syria. The rituals, music and dance are alien to most other Muslim worshippers - as is the huge canvas picturing the twelve Holy Imams.

Alawites here feel their religion is little understood, and the conflict in Syria is making it worse.

The leader or 'Dede' of the Cem house, Huseyin Keskin, said the Turkish government has taken sides against the Alawites.

"It is obvious who the Turkish government supports in Syria. They are 'itching the scratch,' they are making the problem worse in Syria," he said.

Keskin complains that as a minority, Alawites suffer in Turkey.

"The government sees us as different from themselves. They never take care of any of our problems," he said.

Such sentiments echo the fears of Alawites in Syria. If Assad falls - himself an Alawite - many minorities, including Christians and Druze, have voiced fears of Sunni dominance.

Opposition members say the Syrian government has depicted the uprising as a radical Sunni insurgency that Alawites must confront.

The Turkish city of Antakya near the border has a similar ethnic mosaic. In the bazaar, the Syrian crisis dominates conversation.

Spice seller Servet Duzgun said Turkey has made the situation worse in Syria.

"I myself am an Alawite," he said, "but I don't think the most important thing should be whether you are Sunni or Alawite, it should be about human values."

There is one thing that unites many of the shopkeepers in this ancient bazaar; the dramatic falloff in business since the conflict began.

Antakya used to be a shopping destination for Syrians, but now few make the trip.

Thaer Abboud did make that journey. An Alawite, Abboud nevertheless had been a pro-democracy activist for many years before the uprising.

"Especially when you are Alawi [Alawite], you are so dangerous for them. You have to be punished twice," he said.

Abboud said he was jailed and tortured for several months last year before escaping to Turkey and leaving many family members behind.

"The whole body of the revolution is a civil one. There is Christians, there is Alawite, there is Druze, there is Sunni," he said. "You can kill a person in body, you can kill thousands, but you cannot kill an ideology. They are trying in vain to kill this ideology of revolution."

Abboud said the Syrian revolution is not about religion or race. He said it is about overthrowing a dictator - and he believes he will soon return to a free Syria.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 20, 2012 2:29 PM
All Alawites should change their nationality, skin color and language. There are many tribes that are white also in that region, like Israelis and Palestinians, they change into one of these and be free to worship, but I bet Iran will not allow it - they will send their nuclear bomb after you if you become Israeli. Please ask Ahmadinejad what he thinks


by: juninho
July 20, 2012 9:12 AM
Mr. Ridgwell-- you got it completely wrong... You interviewed the ALEVIS in Antakya, not Alawites. The latter are a secretive sect that would never allow an outsider into their house of worship. Alevis on the other hand worship in Cem houses and are open to outsiders.

Both sects are heterodox and venerate the Imam Ali, so hence the similarity in name and sympathy for each other...

Here are the two sects spelled out:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alevi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alawi

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid