Shaykh "Wahid al-Bal'ous:" Not Alone

Shaykh "Wahid al-Bal'ous:" Not Alone
Stories | 13 Feb 2015

Sheikh Waheed al-Bal'ous is a Druze man of religion, with extensive religious contacts and relationships inside Syria, and beyond. He silently observed for over three years of the Revolution, the opposition failure to attract the Druze Mountain to the Revolution; as well as the increasingly violent practices of the regime, which were not confined to cities, towns, and neighborhoods affiliated to the Revolution, but also affected the people of his city, who became perplexed and fearful for their future. Many of their youth were slain in the regime's ongoing war against the people, while others were killed in its detention centers and prisons, with their families receiving nothing but their identity cards in return (!) and others becoming missing. All that is added to the continued infringements meted out by the security services in the province.

The Sheikh had heard enough complaints and took a decision, in the Revolution's fourth year, to defend his community and his city. Some of his reasons for this he recently offered in a long text, in which he expounded these woes. Some of these were mentioned hereabove, while some other concern sectarian practices directed at the Druze sect. Waheed himself made complaints to the highest Druze religious authority Mashyakhat al-Aql, and listened to what many who also made pleas to the religious authority to intercede on the behalf of their detained childrento hear many went to the chiefdom to remove their children from prisonbut came back empty handed. This has only increased the heaviness of his heart.

The man, much like the majority of the people of his city, started to have a sense of mounting concern; for Syria has become a hotbed for all the world's murderers, America has launched a global war on terror against ISIS, while the regime calls on Hezbollah forcesamong many othersto defend it. The man, reading events from his own religious angle, is observing the mounting sabre-rattling predicated on sectarianism. This has driven home the realization that the future portends great danger, and prompted him to take much needed action in his own province. His sect itself may be exposed to terrorist attacks, particularly as the al-Nusra Front [NF] has already carried out several operations against the city of Suwayda solely based on its Druze identity, and ISIS is likely to make progress toward the city as well. The regime's weakness forms an additional reason for the Sheikh, as well as many young people to look for safety. He, therefore, has formed and armed his own group.

Waheed criticizes the regime, and rejects all forms of corrupt practices by security and civilian officials. He holds the regime responsible for the war and the rejection of any possible political solution. Yet he at same time rejects any military intervention in Syria—whether by the U.S. and its alliance, by Russia, or by Iran; the latter to whom he says the regime is wholly subservient. But If Waheed and his group identify themselves neither with the Revolution nor with the regime, then who are they?

Sheikh Waheed recently praised one writer who took him and his group of the parties to the conflict, and considered them an entirely new phenomenon, a local group par excellence; one that has put forward their own city's and region's current and future issues, and; that refuses to compromise the unity of the country or any ideas concerning secession or division. He rose as a prominent pole, a young man compared to the old and decrepit leadership of the Druze community and its Mashyakhat al-Aql, stealing the show from them. This has promted the leadership, its cronies, and the regime to level accusations at him of being sectarian or an ISIS stooge. Some went further, considering him and his group a sort of a Druze-Nusra Front, based on the extremely modest dress code he enforces on his own children, and the fact that he prevents his own wife—as well the wives of his followersleaving home. This has caused him great annoyance, prompting him to retort by criticism of his own in the presence of regime representatives at his home in the town of al-Mazraa, in Suwayda; and his supporters make their calls with spirited words to convey a clear message to the community leadership and the regime, that Waheed's group is here to stay. It will continue to operate for the benefit of the city and prevent all forms of encroachment by the regime on its inhabitants. It will also continue arming itself for fear of a potential future war.

Waheed and his group took part in the Battle of the town of Dama, in which the village was attacked by some armed formations. The inhabitants, as well as his forces, sustained human losses. His group encricled a [regime] security patrol that had intended to arrest an individual; Waheed quarreled with the officer leading the patrol and slapped him. He, more than once, supervised the distribution of fuel oil to the people, in an attempt to prevent the corruption usually practicedpilfering or unfair distribution. He also, more than once, helped save young men from regime forces attempting to marshall into mandatory military service.

It is noteworthy that thousands of young people in the city of Suwayda have refused to perform [military] service. This is a phenomenon that includes all of Syria; as death has become the fate of those who join. This has put this phenomenon into sharp relief, and prompted young people to immigration for fear of being coerced into it.

Several days ago, the Mashyakhat al-Aql issued a religious "sequestration" order of Waheed and his group, thus preventing him entry into religious councils, and denounce them. The logic seems to either force him to renounce his position, and come back into the flock, offering his obedience and submission to the Mashyakhat al-Aql—which seems highly improbable; or to isolate the religious dimension, with him continuing to form and arm his group, with the possiblity of bloody clashes with the regime, later. This "sequestration" decision reminded of a similar decision issued on the [historic] religious leader Sultan Pasha al-Atrash during the French occupation.

This decision has been condemned equally by many of his followers, as well as many of the people of Suwayda. His followers flocked to his home to highlight their support and rejection of this resolution—a resolution which all his supporters said was a political, not a religious, decision.

Will Sheikh Waheed al-Bal'ous return into the regime's and community leadership's fold? Or will he remain a purely religious and local phenomenon, defending his community and his religion?! In all cases, his movement is severely restricted by its sectarian basis and views, as well as by its rigidly religious practices. This will also prevent him from joining the Revolution as well!


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