"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Alawite Question

For some reason, I have missed this article when it was first published.

2 years on, the same questions linger on.

It is easy for an idealist like me to call them off, but they are still valid questions for many the Syrians on the streets.

And if you don't think so, just check the comment section, and you'll see how very pressing they still are.

It has been argued, times and times again, that the only possibility for a successful coup d'etat, that can hold social cohesion through a transitional period died with General Ghazi Kanaan, who was groomed for such a move [I say that, not without much irony].


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria… the whole country… Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, alwais, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist …
Are you serious by assuming it is Ok to ask such questions?! This is not a valid question
When talks starts about Alawis, sunnis and such issues, it is not Ok to discuss them.
Is this the future that is waiting our country?

Yazan, with all due respect… it is not an idealism to call this thing off, it is the right thing.
Any one who care the least about his/her country wont raise such issues or questions…

What kind of hellhole that is waiting us here in Syria if people do actually think how Sunnis will treat Alawis and vise versa…

January 11, 2008 11:02 PM

Anonymous Arabian Stallion said...

Yazan, I don't understand the reference to Ghazi Kazan, would you like to elaborate?

January 12, 2008 12:01 AM

Blogger Yazan said...

The right thing to do >>> I can't agree more.

But, the truth remains, Syria, as it is now, is a bitterly fragmented society, a very sectarian one. And the worst thing about it is that it is in a state of denial about it.

What kind of hellhole do you think Syria is in right now??? Any unfortunate collapse in the status quo, can spark deadly consequences.

Arabian Stallion,
There are no facts about this, but, the story that is the most accepted between Syrians [at least whom I've talked to] was that Ghazi Kanaan was infact in the process of preparing for a coup, with support of the americans [and Shehabi].
It was assumed that, Kanaan, can successfully lead a transitional period because he was part of the regime and "knows" the keys to the "management", and he is Alawite, which will prevent a full scale civil war [people talk of serious amounts of weapons loose in Syria, and with the kind of sectarian tension that's been around for years, that is not good news].

I am not saying that I am in any way endorsing any of these views. I am just saying that these are problems that exist. And one should openly discuss them.

January 12, 2008 1:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yazan, those problems do exists but only in the heads of people who raises them.
Raising such questions that assume the non stable relations between sects in Syria is the problem itself.

I totally disagree that our society is sectarian, yes there are lots of people who are considered closed-minded, racial and ethnic fanaticisms but this is where our efforts must be headed to… to work on this problem not on their problems.

Raising these issues is the problem.

And yes, Syria is now a big hellhole but emphasizing those issues brought by that article and considering those questions as valid Syria will get into deeper hellhole that we CAN’T get out of it.


January 12, 2008 2:49 AM

Anonymous Arabian Stallion said...

Yazan, do you think talking about it alone will help?

There must be deeply rooted reasons there for this tension to exist:
-Social injustices and historical baggage.
-Some unfortunate bloody events that revolved around sectarian lines.
-A certain army officer giving his lackeys hard time because they are from the other sect.
-Power positions held by a certain sect.
-The less qualified government employees getting the perks (travel, car...etc...) because they happen to be from the right sect.

There are numerous reasons that can be listed for sectarian tensions.

However, these things are not established facts, they are PERCEPTIONS.
People are lazy. They find it easier to blame the other sect for their miseries, which is not particularly the right way of correcting things.

You are probably right, talking about it might help actually, but I am afraid it might lead people to get in trouble. This is why you'd have lots of anonymous and masqueraded comments..:-)

January 12, 2008 3:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Arabian stallion, I posted as an anonymous because I wasn’t able to sign in, anyway, I totally agree with you in every thing except for the “talking about it might help”, and ignoring it is no help either.
In my opinion the thing to do is working on it as a PROBLEM itself, not working on its problems
personally I haven’t witness any situation where I was attacked or attacking or witnessed any kind of aggression between sects.

but maybe this is my small society, my small circle and so I know little

either ways, we shouldn’t emphasize those infections by discussing how Sunnis will treat Alwais or what ever, it is not a problem… asking such questions is the problem we have to emphasize on.

this has nothing to do with open-minded thing, you don’t accuse some one innocent for murder for freedom of speech… you can’t treat cancer by planting more cancer-cells, this is not the way to identify the problem.

Yazan, why you believe that our society is a fragmented society? I am really surprised with that!
Couple of people raising such issues are not enough reason to call us a fragmented society at least not when it comes to sects.
But hey, it is just me , maybe you’ve been through situations or experiences.
Am I that ignorant about what is going on in my society? If I am, I would really want to learn more.


January 12, 2008 5:23 AM

Blogger Yazan said...


Yes, as a matter of fact, we live in a terribly, terribly sectarian-oriented society. It is all so carefully hidden under the blanket of our "National Unity", but it is an , and increasingly so, sectarian society.
Damascus is more mixed, and by necessity, people are more flexible, but cities like Homs and Aleppo, are not cities as much a bunch of ghettos lined next to each other, everyone lives all his life within one's ghetto, and avoids all contact with the other ones.
Yes, Dania, when you are all the way in Japan, and the first question a Syrian will ask you when they first meet you is "Where from, Latakia itself, walla el-reef?" you know that you are in a fragmented society.

I am not sure where exactly did you live, and what kind of a life experience. But, personally, I too lived in a surrounding that was [ideologically, just as much as individually] sheltered from that sectarianism. And I think that's why I can look at it from the outside, because I feel very little belonging to any of the tribal collectiveness found in Syria.

There is nothing that I hate more than generalizing, even over 2 people.

yet again, sectarianism was a very, very conscious policy of the regime, it has its roots in the ottoman empire [lets not forget 1860 events, the continued subjugation of Alawites, until around the 1970s (unfortunately) and the resulting victim psyche that they have]. But still, it was a policy of divide and conquer, and the late Assad was the mastermind of it. He divided, and conquered.
Dania, One of the main reason Michel Kilo is in prison is because of the last article he wrote, [Na3awat ٍSourieh], I suggest you read it.

Arabian Stallion,
This stays one of the biggest questions of any movement that wants to change the status quo. There was much sectarian injustice in the far past, just as much as in the near past. And it is all echoed inside the people.
And a political movement that ignores these simple facts is one that is utterly disconnected from reality. Which is the state of the Syrian opposition right now.
I don't want us to turn into another Lebanon. Dictatorship, and utter injustice is one thing, but turning into a institutionalized sectarianism is a totally different thing.

January 12, 2008 6:51 AM

Blogger saint said...

Yazan, this question should be asked each year and should be posted big letter and clear, however it should be associated with time like: Two years the same question linger, is it still a valid question? and if things are moving for better or for worse. I disagree with people who think that such question should not be asked, why they did not say that to Joshua Landis when he posted. Actually, people have to distinguish between posting such question in high distribution paper inside the country, on hatred fanatic blog or on intellectual educated reasonable people.

I do not understand how people generalize and do not realize the different segments of population you are writing to and speaking to. Removing taboos is the responsibility of the educated and having such question also release tension inside educated population.

This hidden hate was very clear to me; I saw it first hand in my last visit to Syria when I visited one of the centers to obtain Syrian ID. The employees there directed me to the only Alawite, he is not the boss but he is the one who distribute the IDs. Everyone there knows that he take money and he is the one who decide if you need to visit the secret service or not. When they direct me to him, you see that smile which say, we know and he knows and everyone knows. And even there is that mouth warp, sad smile, which say “we are helpless”. Then he kept sending me back and forth in unspoken language asking for price to be paid to him for no one knows what service he provides.
The story is not about corruption, because it is rampant for all sectors and sects of the society, but about cashing on the sect ruling and the hate inside the other sects. Anyone in Syria have a story related to this and we need to know where the Syrian society is headed and if things are getting any better.

January 12, 2008 10:06 AM

Blogger Dania said...


I am damascene who lived my whole life here in Damascus, and to tell you the truth I saw people talking about such issues in college but that was not noticeable, or at least not between people I know.

After reading the article you provided and a small research I realized how big the problem is.

So the question should be raised is what to do to cure this disease, not what is the future of Alawis, cause Alwais, Sunnis, Shiite, Christians, Jewish.. we all will share the same future.

We should work on make this society a real secular society, and by worrying on the future of one sect in particular neglecting the rest of Syria, we wont be helping reaching that goal.

January 12, 2008 5:47 PM

Blogger Yazan said...

It's not just religion, sectarianism is only one a reflection of the problem.

The real problem is how we've learned to suppress all minorities.

Throughout Syrian history, there's been much bitterness, albeit different for each period, but all the time, some minorities were repressed. Just because they were minorities.

It is not about giving them equal rights, more so, it's about welcoming them as a real part of our identity.
The suppression and neglegance of Alawites by successive syrian governments after the independence, resulted in what you see now. The repression of Kurds, will be, [unfortunately] of much more grandeur consequences. The alienation of the sunnis in the past 30 years, is even more troublesome.
And the list goes on, all the way down to Saladin, and the Umayyads.

I agree, we need Secularism. But, first, you need to convince people that they are safe in their own country. You need to make them feel safe.

January 12, 2008 9:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I think you r talking about a place that happened to have the same name in a different planet maybe? I think Yazan was referring to the Syria on planet EARTH.
"Syria… the whole country… Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, alwais, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist …" I literally blasted in laughter when i read this. God bless you, that was the funniest thing I ve read about Syria in two years since the short-lived Karfan's Syria Exposed site.
You know, there still exactely 15 Jewish in Damascus (refer to latest NHK program and website of Syrian Jewish Community in USA), so that, I can accept. But Atheist!! and Syrian Buddhist!! My oh my, what else you have in that "Other Planet" Syria of yours?

January 14, 2008 9:09 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home