News / Middle East

Syria's Complex War Produces Splintering Loyalties

A Syrian refugee in his makeshift home in Lebanon's Beka'a Valley, Sept. 2, 2013. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
A Syrian refugee in his makeshift home in Lebanon's Beka'a Valley, Sept. 2, 2013. (Heather Murdock for VOA)
Heather Murdock
In the Beka'a Valley of eastern Lebanon, Syrian refugees wait out the war in sparse homes, many made of plywood and cut-up bags. There is a certain solidarity among them, but refugees say as the war drags on, political divisions are growing, even within religious groups. 
 
A young man pours Syrian coffee into tiny porcelain cups at the home of Syrian refugee Ghazy Ali in the Beka'a Valley.  Ali said he pays about $650 a year for the use of the concrete block that makes up his floor.  He has put up plywood corners and connected them with walls made of sheets, old rice sacks and blankets.
 
He said his only real loyalty is to his home in Syria, where he wants to live in peace. He is a Sunni Muslim of the Bedouin tribe.  But if he has a choice of who wins the war in Syria, he said he likes the Islamists because their priority is the Muslim faith.
 
Down the road from Ali's place, Mashour al-Freg and his wife Saada are elated - celebrating the release of their son, Ibrahim, from a Syrian government prison. Saada takes out a laminated ID card specially made so she could visit the prison. She smiles, saying she plans to rip it up. 
 
Also Sunni Muslims, Mashour's family supports the Free Syrian Army, a rebel militia more commonly called 'jeish al-har' - the free army. 
 
Mashour said he's not sure why loyalties in Syria continue to splinter.  Political affiliations used to be more closely aligned with religious beliefs, he added.  But after two-and-half years of civil war, many ordinary people have been killed by all sides, driving their families to support another group.
 
Even within religious and political groups, Syrians are divided over the threat of a U.S. air strike against the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed more than a thousand people in Damascus.
 
At Mashour and Saada's place, the couple said they are in favor of U.S. President Barack Obama's plan because they hope it could pave the way for a free army victory and an end to the war.  Obama, however, wants limited strikes intended to deter the use of chemical weapons, not end the war or oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
And as Syrian families wait for September 9, when U.S. lawmakers return to work before voting on Obama's plan, Syrians are fleeing their homes faster than ever.  Aid workers say Lebanon already has more than 700,000 Syrian refugees and no capacity for more.
 
Nadia Saleh lives in a single stone room in an almost abandoned house.  Other refugees used to live there, but after the landlord raised the rent to over $300 a room per month, most families moved out.  Saleh is Kurdish and a Sunni Muslim. She does not support rebels or separatists as one might expect.
 
Saleh supports Assad, who she said is like a brother. She fears an American attack could not only harm his regime, but deepen violence across the country.
 
Mashour and Saada are more optimistic, saying the war will be over in a month.
 
The end of the war will be bittersweet, Saada said, as she talked about returning to her bombed-out home in her destroyed neighborhood in Homs, adding that she was ready to go home yesterday.  
 

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More