Syrian Druze clerics hailing from Al-Suweida province urged soldiers from their sect to defect from President Bashar al-Assad regime’s army and join the opposition, Al Arabiya reported Saturday.
The clerics’ statement, initially reported by opposition media online, called on Druze soldiers to stop defending “leaders who are killing their citizens” and to return to their home province located southeast of the capital, Damascus.
Jordan-based Rima Flaihan, opposition member from the Syrian National Coalition, told Al Arabiya that the Assad regime doesn’t represent any sect, adding that “all of Syria should be against killings of civilians.”
Late 2012, U.N. investigators warned in a report that the 23-month conflict in Syria has become openly sectarian and threatened whole communities. They said minority groups such as the Armenians, Christians, Druze, Palestinians, Kurds and Turkmen had also been drawn into the conflict.
Caught up in the cycle of attacks and reprisals, they were being forced to choose sides and allow themselves to be armed by the warring parties.
President Assad is from Syria’s minority Alawite sect and critics say the president has filled senior political and military posts with Alawites to impose his rule through sectarian loyalty. The Alawite-dominated Assad regime was also able to use the rise of Islamist terrorists as a scare tactic to bolster support coming the country’s minorities.
Sunni Muslims make up 74 percent of Syria’s 22 million population while Alawites 12 percent, Christians 10 percent and Druze 3 percent.
Meanwhile, Syrian National Coalition has renewed its calls on Saturday for western countries to start supplying arms for the Free Syrian Army against the Russian-backed Assad army.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday also called for urgent action to bring about a power transfer in Syria that excludes President Assad.
“Given the enormous price paid already by the Syrian people... it is more urgent than ever to act to overcome differences in favor of a political transition,” Le Drian told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates.
He said the change should be “a transition in which president Assad would no longer keep his place.”
Le Drian spoke of a “tragedy” and accused Assad and his family “of clinging to power by multiplying the daily massacres and atrocities.”
Syrian opposition on Friday refused to accept President Assad in any talks on ending Syria’s conflict, as part of a “framework” it has drawn up for a political solution.
China and Russia have blocked three resolutions at the U.N. Security Council that would have threatened sanctions against the Assad regime over its brutal crackdown on democracy protests that erupted in March 2011.