Member of the Syrian National Council and prominent opposition figure Monzer Makhous refuted the popular belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is backed by the Alawite community.
“The fact that Alawites have never been able to voice their anger at the regime is not because they supported it but because they have been suppressed for more than 40 years,” Makhous told Al Arabiya’s Noktet Nizam TV program (Point of Order).
Makhous, who is also an Alawite, explained that unlike what many believe, the Alawites have been the most affected by the brutality of Assad’s regime despite its claimed of being a protector of minorities.
“The Syrian regime has always given the impression that it protects minorities like Alawites and Christians and that its ouster would lead to their extermination at the hands of fundamentalists.”
Makhous downplayed the sectarian strife scenario propagated by the regime and stressed that the Syrian people will not fall into this trap.
“The majority of the Syrian people managed to rise above sectarian differences and realized that the best protection for minorities is the establishment of a pluralistic, democratic regime based on the principles of citizenship and equality before the law.”
However, Makhous admitted that sectarian difference is still an issue amongst uneducated Alawites and attributed the occurrence of some “individual” violent incidents to this lack of awareness.
“Several of those incidents, especially those that take place in Homs, are orchestrated by the regime that is now doing its best to ignite sectarian strife in the Syrian society.”
He also pointed out that the plight of the Alawites can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire when they, among other minority groups, were subjected to extreme repression.
As for the role of Alawites in the Syrian revolution, Makhous said that they are in fact protesting against the regime in cities like Baniyas in the governorate of Tartus, which has an Alawite majority, and Jableh in the governorate of Latakia.
“However, more Alawite participation is needed especially in other areas with an Alawite majority. They all have to declare that the Syrian regime does not represent them and that they condemn its brutality against the Syrian people. This is of vital importance for the Alawite community and for national unity in general.”
Makhous praised the few statements made by Alawite clerics against the regime, but stressed that more is needed for the Alawite community to show support for the people and to prove that it is part of Syria and does not live in isolation.
When asked about the status of Alawite officers who constitute the majority of the army and security forces, Makhous said they are unlikely to switch sides.
“They are so involved in corruption and any rebellion on their part would be a suicide. Yet, it is those among them who are not implicated in crimes that can tip the balance of power.”
Regarding reports of Alawites wanting to create an independent state, Makhous said these are a minority.
“I cannot deny that some lunatics want to have an independent Alawite state but they are very few and they don’t realize that such a plan will not only destroy Syria but also the Alawites themselves.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)