Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has tried to present itself at home and abroad as the protector of minorities. The game of “protecting minorities” is not new, of course, but has been used many times by occupiers for the purposes of justifying their occupation of our land or to pass some of their criminal policies. Under the pretext of protecting minorities, they did anything they wanted, while everyone knew that the least of their concerns was to protect minority groups, whom they used for dirty purposes and the well-known colonial tactic of divide and rule. Occupations have harmed minorities much more than they have ever benefitted them, and sometimes made them look like collaborators in the eyes of the majority.
The Syrian regime’s policies are no different to colonial policies, as it too has used minorities for the same authoritarian purposes, driving wedges between the majority and minorities in order to protect the regime and live off their in-fighting. It has also taken advantage of the poor Alawite sect in order to stay in power; more than 150,000 Alawites have been killed in the conflict to-date.
The regime has always blackmailed them by saying that the majority will crush them if they don’t cooperate with Damascus in the war against the revolution. Alawites, like other minorities, fell for these satanic schemes. The question is: if the regime is using members of the Alawite sect, to whom it belongs, and is sacrificing them in order to stay in power, then how do other minorities, such as Christians, Ismailis and Druze, expect to be protected by the government? Aren’t those closest in kin, the Alawites, more deserving of Assad’s largesse? He hasn’t provided them with anything and now those who have been injured are begging for medicine and food. As for the Druze, they have been compensated with two goats for each martyr.
How can minorities believe that the regime is protecting them if the number of Christians in Syria has fallen during the rule of Bashar Al-Assad and his father before him, from two million to around 300,000? Most of them migrated to the West during the days of Hafez Al-Assad, according to Christian researcher George Kedr. Tens of thousands followed during the revolution and Assad Junior could not provide them with any protection. Hundreds of thousands of Druze have migrated because of poverty, injustice and tyranny; there are now more Druze outside Syria than in the country. Would they have migrated if the regime had been protecting them day and night as it claims? Of course not.
The game of exploiting minorities is divided into two stages. The first stage was when the Syrian regime incited them against the rebelling majority under the pretext that the majority will crush them if they did not fight on the regime’s side. Damascus succeeded in this; minorities refrained from joining the revolution.
It is unfortunate that some of the minorities fell for this dirty trick and only realised what was happening when the regime moved to the second stage of its exploitation, when it failed to recruit enough men for the army. In Sweida, nearly 30,000 young men refused to become soldiers because they did not want to be sacrificed in Assad’s crazy war against the Syrian people.
Now that Bashar al-Assad is finished with the first stage he is in a miserable position militarily, especially after being deserted by some minorities. He is no longer capable of military confrontation, or providing the most basic protection for the minorities who stood by his side, and is now handing details of the locations of minorities to the extremists. This is a punishment for those who refused to join his army, and draws the world’s attention to minorities being threatened by ISIS and its counterparts. With this game, the regime has started exploiting minorities on the international level; he took hordes of extremists to the Druze in Sweida and Ismailis in Al-Selmia and is telling the world, look, the minorities are in danger, and you have to stand with me and with them. It is exploitation of the minorities in its dirtiest form.
However, it is clear that the game has been exposed and no longer fools the minority groups. Again, in Sweida, for example, Druze began to get closer to their neighbours in Daraa, after the regime had failed to cause division between the two. The regime was exposed even more when Sweida Druze found out that the regime had emptied museums of antiques and transferred them to its areas, and also emptied the granaries and took all of the local heavy weapons away, leaving the Druze to their fate. It wanted to exploit their plight in the face of extremist forces that it brought to the outskirts of Sweida, but as the people realised that Assad’s forces have been exploiting them for their own purposes, all the regime can do now is escape from the southern region after its strongholds crumbled.
I hope that the minorities now understand the game, and that it would be best if they allied themselves with the majority instead of the short-lived tyrannical regime.
Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, 12 June 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.