Who are the Alawites?

By Aymeric Chauprade

Extracted and translated from a conference in french given in Funglode, Saint Domingue,  27th  november 2012:  “Où vont la Syrie et le Moyen-Orient ?”


…. “there is a need to understand who are the Alawites. This is a community issued, in the tenth century, in the borders of the Arab Empire and the Byzantine Empire, from a distant split of Shi’ism, and that practices a syncretism with elements of Shi’ism, Hellenistic pantheism of Persian Zoroastrianism and Byzantine Christianity. It is very important for our analysis to know that the Alawites are considered by Sunni Islam as the worst of heretics. The fourteenth century jurist Ibn Taymiyya Salafi, ancestor of the Wahhabi and a current important reference for Islamists worldwide, issued a fatwa calling for their systematic persecution and genocide.

This fatwa is still current among Salafis, Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood, that is to say, all those the Alawite power is facing right now!

Before the coup Hafez el-Assad in 1970, the Alawites have known persecution from mainstream Islam, Sunnism.

You still need to know that until 1970, the Sunni bourgeoisie were still buying, under a notarized contract, young Alawite slaves.

Things got better with the installation of the Baathist nationalist ideology in 1963, which is Arabism precedence over all other considerations, and especially 1970.

” In summary, today’s war is the new episode of bloody war supporters of Ibn Taymiyya against heretics Alawites, a war that has lasted since the fourteenth century! This fatwa is in my opinion a new source of potential genocide (similar to that of Rwanda) if the plan is to fall. This is an essential that Westerners are trying to ignore.

Hunted and persecuted for centuries, the Alawis had to take refuge in the coastal mountains arid between Lebanon and Turkey present while giving to their belief an hermetic and esoteric side, allowing themselves lies and concealment (the famous Taqqiya) to escape their tormentors.

But then you wonder what the Alawites have done to come to power?

Subject to foreign military occupations for centuries, the bourgeoisie Sunni Syria (a similar process occurred in Lebanon) committed the usual mistake of the rich after the country’s independence in 1943. The profession of arms was relegated to the poor and not the son of “good family.” The army was constituted by minorities: a majority of Alawites, but also Christians, Ismailis, Druze, Shia.

Hafez al-Assad came from one of these poor families of the Alawite community. He first became Chief of the Air Force and defense minister prior to seize power by force in order to give the community its revenge on History (with its allies Druze and Christians) .

So you understand immediately that the regime backed by 2 million Alawites, probably 2 to 3 million other minorities, but also a part of the Sunni bourgeoisie including Damascus, whose economic interests are now closely linked to dictatorship has no choice but to fight to the death.
When I say fight to the death, I mean to distinguish the regime from Bashar al-Assad. The regime is more powerful than Bashar and can get rid of  him if it considers that it is in its survival. But getting rid of possibly does not mean putting a democracy that would see inevitably (mathematically) the triumph of the Islamists, as in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen …

Christians in Syria have seen what happened to the Christians of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They see what happens to the Copts in Egypt, after the victory of the Islamists. Druze also know that they are, as the Alawites, considered heretics  to be destroyed by the Salafi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is absolutely unrealistic to think, as we think in the West, that the Alawites will accept democratic reforms that would lead mechanically Salafists in power.

I repeat the mistake of thinking that the country went into civil war in 2011. It was already in 1980 when a commando Muslim Brotherhood  introduced itself into the school Cadet Air Force Aleppo, set aside cadets Sunnis and Alawites and massacred 80 Alawite cadets under the fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya. The Muslim Brotherhood have paid dearly in 1982 in Hama, a stronghold of the Brotherhood, the uncle of the current President exterminated  by making perhaps 20,000 dead. Sectarian violence have never really stopped but that does not interest the West because there was at that time no oil and gas agenda for Syria, or any agenda against Iran.

It is said that the regime is brutal and it is obviously incredibly brutal, but it is not  brutal by itself. Syria has risen from the Ottoman occupation and its methods of skinning alive, the French Mandate from 1920 to 1943, former Nazi refugees from 1945 who became advisers and counselors and then the KGB. It is obvious that there is nothing to expect from this regime in human rights, democratic reforms … But there is nothing to expect either from Islamist rebels who want to take power and who have a fatwa allowing them to  organize the genocide of the Alawites.   And elsewhere are we expecting something of Saudi Arabia in terms of Human Rights?

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