The real reason why the world is reluctant to intervene in Syria
Fears of racial backlash has the world reluctant to intervene in Syria.
Unbeknownst to most outsiders, the situation in Syria is far more complex than they would believe. While it is safe to say that a great majority of Syrians are opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, he remains in power largely because the the ruling Alawite minority fears retaliation from the Sunni majority. This may be the real reason why the international community continues to shy away from direct intervention.
Racial divide, more than any other factor, is keeping al-Assad in power.
Syria's Alawite minority has faced centuries of persecution and discrimination, largely because their religious practices are substantially divergent from mainstream Islam. Alawites do not believe in mandatory prayer, fasting, or pilgrimage, and many of the sacred tenants of the religion are secrets known only to a few clerics and insiders. They are also culturally unique, largely inhabiting the mountainous northwestern regions of Syria.
Owing to their intimate association with Bashar al-Assad, who is also Alawite, many fear they will be targeted for reprisals if the regime of al-Assad should collapse. This fear, perhaps more than genuine loyalty towards al-Assad, a man even the Alawites are coming to resent, keeps the elites of the Alawite minority loyal.
However, the world has taken notice of this fearful loyalty and is acknowledging that these fears are the principal factor keeping al-Assad in power. The world community is now pressing the Syrian National Committee (SNC), which forms the backbone of the opposition, to pledge protection for the Alawite minority.
While the SNC has complied and issued statements, getting Alawites to believe them is another matter. It does not help that a few prominent figures of the opposition have publicly threatened the Alawites.
Maamyun Homsi, a high profile figure speaking from exile referred to the Alawites as "despicable" and threatened, "Syria will become your graveyard," should Alawites fail to renounce Assad.
The Syrian regime is also playing upon these fears, keeping Alawites loyal by playing upon sectarian fears.
Ironically, the greatest danger to the Alawites seems to come from within. Alawites that support the opposition report being threatened, attacked, and beaten. Some have fled to Europe to escape the possibility of being assassinated. Most Alawites despise al-Assad, even if only in secret, but they fear going public because of the threat of reprisals from their neighbors.
For Alawites that remain loyal to al-Assad, their situation remains good. They have the best jobs, good pay, and as a result, strong interest in the current regime.
Until the opposition makes sincere and credible assurances to the Alawites that the Alawites accept, the region is likely to remain divided and al-Assad will maintain a base of loyal support, even if those supporters do not condone his activities. This also suggests that once al-Assad is finally ousted from power, the crisis in Syria may not come to a prompt end. Instead, there will be new fears that a vengeful majority will take its revenge. If so, the return of peace to Syria may take much longer and face greater difficulty than most now believe.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Syria, violence, Arab Spring, protests, Alawites, race, al_Assad
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