The Druze in Syria and the Perspectives of the Revolution

By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 20.6.2015, http://www.the-isleague.com and www.thecommunists.net

 

From the very beginning of the Arab Spring, the RCIT armed with Trotsky’s theory and strategy of the Permanent Revolution has supported these uprisings and has called upon the Arab masses to link the struggle for democratic demands to a workers revolution backed by the Fellahin. In the civil war in Syria, we have been with the popular masses against the regime of Assad. In the military conflicts we have sided with the rebels, whether secular or religious, as long as these organizations are not controlled by the imperialists. However, we have not and do not give them any political support.

In contrast to our own position, the “communist” parties and the Stalinoids have presented the Assad regime as “anti-imperialist” and the armed opposition as “puppets of imperialism”.

So far, because the anti-dictatorial popular movements have consistently lacked a revolutionary working class leadership, the revolutionary wave has been defeated in most countries in the region. Consequently, Trotsky’s theory has been proven correct in a negative way. Because the leadership of the Arab uprisings has not been the working class, led by a revolutionary workers’ party, the counter-revolution has been able to stop the masses, and thus instead of going through unification process the region is falling apart.

 

Brief History of the Druze

 

When Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970, he presented himself as the protector of the minorities: Alawites, Druze, Christians, Shia, and Ismailis — composing about 20–25% of the Syrian population, in addition to Sunni Kurds. When the revolution broke out in 2011, the Assad regime linked this power base to a sectarian warning: In its propaganda, the regime was the defender of both a secular Syria and the minority populations against a hard-line Islamists.

The first minority to test Assad’s claim that he protects the minorities were the Druze who have been abandoned by Assad and, unless they join the armed opposition, may be exposed to massacres in the hands of Dash/ISIS.

The Druze are Arabs who belong to a secretive, religious group whose origins can be traced to Egypt one thousand years ago. Because of their fear of persecution, the Druze refuse to share information about their faith or their culture with outsiders. Of the little that is known, they believe that God was incarnated on earth in the form of their leader, al-Hakim bi-Amrih Alla. The Druze live in isolated mountain locations in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, (occupied Palestine and Syria), while others have settled throughout the Middle East. Estimates of their numbers vary from 700,000 to 2 million worldwide. This wide range is the result of the Druze not having been part of any formal census since the 1930s. However, rough estimates place the number of Druze at 390,000 in Lebanon, 420,000 in Syria, 75,000 in Israel, 15,000 in Jordan, and about 80,000 scattered around the rest of the world, mostly in North America, Australia, and West Africa. (1)

In Syria, the Druze are the third largest religious minority and constitute around 3% of the population. They reside primarily on Jabal Druze (also known as Jabal al-Arab or Jabal Hawran – Jabal is “mountain” in Arabic) in the southwestern area of Syria near the Jordanian border. They also have significant communities on the occupied Golan (Jawlan), seventeen villages in Jabal al-A'la, roughly midway between Aleppo and Antioch in the northwest, and four villages just south of Damascus.

The first Druze settlers probably arrived on Jabal Druze from Mount Lebanon and Aleppo at the end of the seventeenth century. After the First World War, France established a so called an independent Druze territory. However Druze leaders understood that the French imperialists’ interest was in fostering phony independence in order to subdue the Arabs of Syria. In 1925 the Druze participated in a major revolt against France and formed a military united front with Arab patriots in Damascus. The revolt almost succeeded in kicking France out of the country. After the revolt was suppressed in 1927, two trends were discernible in Druze society. The class of Druze notables was ready to serve French rule, while the younger generation workers and Fellahin supported an independent Syria. Many of the latter joined the army and subsequently the Ba'ath party. During the 1960s the Druze were purged from the army, the Ba'ath, and the security services after they were accused of an attempt coup. Since 1967, about 15,000 Druze have lived under Israeli military occupation on the Golan Height. (2)

 

The Massacre in Qalb Lawzah

 

Last week rebels in Syria linked to al-Qaeda were accused of killing at least 20 members of the minority Druze in the town of Qalb Lawzah in the northwestern province of Idlib. The incident was the deadliest attack against the Druze community since the beginning of the civil war. The 20 Druze were killed following an argument over a house which Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, seized to which the Druze owner of the house objected. Nusra had already seized the abandoned houses for their men – nobody ever previously protested against that. But this owner said no to his relatives who tried to intervene, beating one militant with a shovel. A local resident called Jawad, who only gave his first name to The Daily Telegraph, said. “Then the jihadists opened fire.” (3)

While al-Nusra leaders apologized for the killing of the 20 Druze, and promised to punish the killers, the Druze leadership in Syria called on Assad not to abandon them. One Lebanese Druze leader, who supports al-Assad, Wiam Wahhab, made a televised speech, saying:

We will not accept to the selling of Druze blood! [The Druze in Syria] are ready to defeat the terrorists, but what they lack is arms. Lebanon’s Druze are ready to help, we are ready to form an army of 200,000 fighters to defend the Druze!

However, the principal Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, who opposes al-Assad, published on Twitter:

Any inciting rhetoric will not be beneficial, and you should remember that Bashar Assad’s policies pushed Syria into this chaos.” (4)

Like many Syrians living in areas controlled by the Assad regime, many Druze have been afraid to speak out against Assad. Recently, however, a number of Druze religious leaders have turned to social media to broadcast their anti-regime sentiment. Their biggest grievance is that Assad has not provided them with enough weapons to defend against attacks by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra. Since the start of the popular uprising against the regime, in 2011, Syria’s government has provided weapons only to pro-Assad forces -- in this case, to Druze militias loyal to the regime. As attacks have intensified, however, many Druze, particularly a group of religious leaders known as the Ajaweed, have begun demanding weapons for themselves, claiming that the regime-backed militias have not done enough.” (5)

In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Nusra leader Jolani “vowed that al-Nusra would not harm members of Syria's Christian and Druze minorities who did not fight against it, and that Alawites would be safe if they "drop their weapons, disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam". (6)

Likewise, al-Nusra expressed its desire to focus the struggle not against the west but only against the Assad regime: Jolani said “The instructions that we have are not to use al-Sham [Syria] as a base to launch attacks on the West or Europe, so as not to muddy the current war.” He added: “Our mission in Syria is the downfall of the regime, its symbols, and its allies, like Hizbollah,” referring to the powerful Shiite movement fighting alongside the Bashar Al Assad regime. But if the United States kept attacking them, he said, “all options are open. Anyone has the right to self-defence.” (7)

While al-Nusra’s approach towards the Druze is backward, it is different from the outlook of Dash/ISIS which considers almost all Muslims to be foes of true Islam. They have also adopted a philosophy called takfir that poses a danger to all of these Muslims, since under it these jihadists believe they have the right to declare any of them to be outside the true faith, thus allowing their execution.

In light of the danger of massacres of their brothers and sisters in Syria, thousands of Druze in Israel protested on Saturday, June 13, calling on Israel to aid the Druze in Syria. Typical chants were “Stop the massacres,” and “We want the Druze among us.”

However, it is clear that the last thing Israel wants to see is a stream of Syrian refugees coming to Israel.

“From Israel’s point of view, the danger is that if jihadist groups start attacking the Druze in Syria, then hundreds of thousands of Druze civilians will pour across the border into Israel, creating a major humanitarian crisis, and forcing Israel to enter the war.” (8)

 

Unite the popular resistance against Assad on a non-sectarian democratic basis!

 

In the real world Assad has absolutely no interest in defending the Druze and his only real interest is to get the Druze to defend his rule. In fact, as a recently published survey documented, it is the Assad regime which is responsible for most of the sectarian or ethnic massacres in the Syrian civil war. According to the authors, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Assad regime was responsible for killing 3,074 people in 49 sectarian massacres, where only 70 of the victims were classified as militants while just over 3,000 were civilians, including 526 children, and 471 women. Dash, al-Nusra and others rebel groups were together responsible for four sectarian massacres with 178 victims. Of these, Dash/ISIS alone committed three sectarian massacres with 58 victims. The Kurdish nationalist YPG was responsible for three ethnic massacres with 91 victims. (9)

Socialists should counter the pro-Assad propaganda and explain that that the Druze and the other minorities in Syria should join the popular resistance in a united military front against the Assad regime and defend themselves against Dash/ISIS.

This has to be combined with the perspective of creating workers and fallahin councils and militias on a non-sectarian basis and equality for all religious and ethnic groups. The only road to a victory in Syria, like in the entire region, is a socialist revolution that will kick out the imperialists and replace the corrupted regimes with a socialist federation of the Middle East. The RCIT calls socialists in Syria and all countries in the region to build revolutionary, multi-national workers parties based on such a perspective.

Down with Assasd regime!

Turn the civil war into a socialist revolution!

For a socialist revolution of the Middle East!

 

Notes

(1) Pam Rohland: The Druze, http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/Druze.html

(2) World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples: Druze, http://www.minorityrights.org/5279/syria/druze.html

(3) Louisa Loveluck, and Magdy Samaan: Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria 'massacre' Druze villagers, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11667731/Al-Qaeda-fighters-in-Syria-massacre-Druze-villagers.html

(4) John J. Xenakis: World View: Jihadist Attack On Druze Population Could Bring Israel Into Syria War, 14 June 2015, Brieitbart, http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/06/14/world-view-jihadist-attack-on-druze-population-could-bring-israel-into-syria-war/

(5) Firas Maksad: The Druze Dilemma. How the Religious Minority Gained Influence in Syria, October 8, 2014, Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2014-10-08/druze-dilemma

(6) BBC: Al-Qaeda 'orders Syria's Al-Nusra Front not to attack West', May 28; 2015 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32913509

(7) Nusra leader: Our mission is to defeat Syrian regime. Abu Mohammed al-Golani in exclusive interview to Al Jazeera says his group has no specific agenda to target West, 28 May 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/nusra-front-golani-assad-syria-hezbollah-isil-150528044857528.html

(8) John J. Xenakis: World View: Jihadist Attack On Druze Population Could Bring Israel Into Syria War

(9) See Syrian Network for Human Rights: The Society’s Holocaust. Most Notable Sectarian and Ethnic Cleansing Massacre, 16 June 2015

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