As soon as the Syrian forces opposing the regime overtook the city of Jisr al-Shughur, an ugly sectarian tirade broke out between Syrians. The focus of the sectarian debate among the sectarian pro-regime groups posits that the Wahhabis are coming to mete out their punishment; while those supporting the opposition posit that the Nusayri Magians [non-Muslims] must sample a taste of what they had been feeding Sunnis for four years. This chatter sees Syrians only as sects: Thus, all Sunnis are oppressed and must seek retribution; while all Alawites are oppressors, and must be humiliated and perish. This is murderous, criminal thinking; thinking that derives its legitimacy from the regime's practices over the past four years. It has employed sectarianism to paint events in Syria as being sectarian par excellence; the Muslim Brotherhood were only happy to agree. They actively Islamized the revolution since its first moments, thereby pushing us to the point where we have Sunni jihadist and Shiite militias [on the regime's side]; this has become a conflict between two jihadisms and, therefore, what has been ongoing in Syria during the past four years is thereby reduced to a sectarian civil war. But what is the story, really? Thus, the Ittijah Mouakes [Opposite Direction, a famous talkshow on al-Jazeera] episode entitled "the fate of the Alawites," presented Alawites as killers and criminals—not only during the past four years, but during the last fifty years. It was intended to inflame sectarian agitation, visceral fear, and sustain sectarian killings; without disclosure of any facts, as purported by the political movement justifying this episode, with all its perversities.
Faisal al-Qassem's [the program's host] widely-known and, perhaps, most watched program, has been snubbed by many intellectuals for many years; this latest episode, sectarian in tone par excellence, only confirmed intellectuals' opinion of the program. It did not reveal any fact about purported "Alawite" actions; rather contenting itself by stoking religious animosity among all, with that issue becoming the fodder of Syrians' verbal and social networking chats.
The Alawite sect did not engage in the Revolution; while certain segments of the young and intellectuals endorsed it. This is also the case with the remaining religious minorities. The Sunni sect has, however, immersed itself in the Revolution—despite the refusal of certain segments, particularly the wealthy, to engage themselves in it; with entire towns sometimes not contributing! Engagement in the Revolution has always been faced by arrest and murder... The richer segments in various provinces remained aloof, leaving the poor to cope with the regime—largely on their own, with some of middle class and a few rich youth segments. The majority of Aleppo did not participate in the Revolution, as well as the wealthy in Damascus in particular, and a many civilian Sunnis. This vast canvas should be seen for what it truly is—otherwise, we will fall into the demonization of one sect or the other, and fail to understand the truth.
Now, why did the Alawite sect not engage in the Revolution, and in its majority stand with the regime?!
There are three issues that are key to establish an understanding of this event; move from it towards a national project based on citizenship; a permanent and transitional justice, whereby criminals are made accountable for their crimes; and making the judiciary the only adjudicator between Syrians. If these issues are not resolved, deep sectarian-political schisms will be crystallized.
Firstly, there is the historical-political dispute between Sunnis and Alawites, which resulted in an old sectarian segregation. It was first established by the Ottoman Empire's persecution of the Alawites, emplying religion as a tool. Neither the modern state, nor the nationalist or socialist ideologies were able to bridge it in earnest. No all-encompassing Syrian nationalism took shape in Syria before or after independence.
Secondly, the war in the 1980s that assumed a sectarian character, with the Muslim Brotherhood wishing to build an Islamic state, and the regime responding by forming the almost entirely Alawite "Defense Brigades." The most serious facet of this problem is the lack of addressing this issue, thereby making it a quasi-fact to all and sundry that Alawites were the authority and Sunnis forming the persecuted sect; this, despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood's scheme failed at the time, due to the regime's fascism, and because of the Sunni urban bourgeoisie—particularly in Damascus—refusing to support the Muslim Brotherhood's project. In this vain, it may be added here that the emergence—particularly after the 1980s—of security control with a majority of Alawite officers, as well as the increasing number of Alawite employees in various state institutions; gave an impression of a ruling sect. It is a largely false impression, and by simply reading any study on the status of Alawite areas, the error of such view can be explained.
Thirdly, with the onset of the Revolution, the regime used the aforementioned, and went out of its way to paint the Revolution as a Saudi, imperialist, Muslim Brotherhood, and Wahhabi Revolution; purporting that the Sunnis are coming to kill all Alawites and minorities, and threatening the stability of all of Syria. Later the regime even released the current jihadist leaders [al-Jolani, Alloush, and others]. Equally disastrous was the Muslim Brotherhood also immediately moving to avenge their defeat in the 1980s; exploiting the Revolution, pushing it toward Islamization; almost taking control of Al-Jazeera and the anti-Bashar al-Assad Syrian Facebook page; as well as successfully emplying relief money and activists' support to increase Islamization. The Brotherhood's moves were a factor of splintering the Syrian Revolution, distancing many categories of Syrian—not only a large block of the Alawite sect—from the Revolution.
With the cascading of events, the regime deepened its vision of the Revolution as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. The Syrian people's deep revolutionary acclamation of being "one people," and "neither Salafi, nor Muslim Brotherhood" has not spared them. Mutual atonement has later intensified, thus allowing the sectarian rhetoric alone to surface. The regime is controlled by a handful of very specific individuals, each of whom have contributed to the destruction and the killing; they are followed by specific categories, with many categories in all Syrian cities benefitting from the corruption; it is responsible for all the killing, destruction, siege, arrest and deportation that has since ensued. To the aforementioned, we add all of those who pushed the country to this chaotic sectarian and armament option—i.e. the Brotherhood, jihadists, regime supporters—as well as these categories.
The regime is in an extremely frail condition, abandoned by all sects in society. It is no longer capable, for almost a year now, to supplement its army and security forces with new recruits; that is, it suffers general societal isolation, and indications are that Iran and Russia also began abandon it. The only relevant discourse we see at present is that related to how to move to a new system; to hold accountable all parties to the conflict and criminals, according to the legal articles of the transitional or permanent phase—yet according to tribunal justice, and the criminalization of sectarian rhetoric.
All that has happened in Syria is a popular revolution involving numerous groups of Syrians, that has, however, become tainted by sectarianism, and on both sides of the conflict. Salvation from it and return to the goals of the Revolution can be achieved by establishing a platform based on citizenship and moving toward a Syria for all Syrians. This form of the transition alone will allow the formation of a new [Syrian] nationalims; put an end to the three aformentioned issues; deal with all files; and help abolish any form of sectarian, religious, or sexual discrimination.
* Opinion Articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Radio Rozana.