Syria’s Druze between the hammer of the regime and anvil of extremism

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A Druze cleric. File photo

ARA News

Beirut, Lebanon – The Syrian conflict has overshadowed the situation of the diverse minority groups, amid the regime’s attempts to present itself as minorities-protector against terrorism and the mounting concerns about the fate of these communities under the growing power of extremist groups across the country. 

A Syrian minority groups that has survived the four-year war is the Druze community, which has tried to stay impartial regarding the conflicting parties in an attempt to avoid possible attacks by certain groups.  

Mount Simaq, a Druze-inhabited area in the northwestern countryside of Syria’s Idlib, is surrounded by 17 small villages of no more than 30,000 residents, but the population currently exceeds 50,000 after sheltering many displaced people from the embattled areas of Idlib province.

Neutrality Preserved Druze

Subsequent to the control of the Syrian armed opposition and the al-Nusra Front (Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda) over most of the districts in Idlib, the situation of the villages in Mount Simaq has become sensitive with the growing concerns about possible attacks by Islamist rebels against the Druze minority in the area. 

Speaking to ARA News from Mount Simaq, the Druze civil activist Rashid Beyas said: “Our neutral position towards the conflict is the main reason behind our safety so far. We haven’t participated in any activities in favor of either side of the conflict.” 

However, the situation of minorities in Idlib under al-Nusra Front’s control remains a subject of debate, especially with the prevalent policy of Islamists to impose their regulations on non-Muslim communities. 

“The Druze community has special customs and traditions, representing a unique cultural identity; however, there are no specific practices that contradict the essential teachings of Islam, yet we still fear extremist Muslims,” Beyas said.

Beyas added that the Druze families in Mount Simaq are currently hosting thousands of displaced Syrians from conflicted areas in Idlib province, “regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation.”

“We show respect to all components of Syrian society, and we are hosting many Muslim families on a humanitarian basis,” he said. “That’s why our (Druze) community is being respected by other groups in the region, and we hope this will guarantee our safety in the future, regardless of who is in power.” 

Beyas told ARA News that the Druze villages of Mount Simaq haven’t been exposed to any attacks, “neither by the regime nor by the rebels”.

“Our main concern is the going power of al-Qaeda and Daesh (Islamic State) in Syria. We’ve never been afraid of the moderate rebels,” the activist added. 

Survival  

The Druze community in Mount Simaq rely mainly on agriculture as a resource for their livelihood. However, the area faces a challenge amid the blockade of vital roads, which prevents movement between the area and other towns and cities in Syria.

According to locals, this situation has caused shortage of basic supplies, such as medicines, in Mount Simaq.

On the other hand, civil servants and employees of the governmental institutions in Mount Simaq started to suffer following the fall of Idlib in the hands of the rebels, as their salaries were suspended, leaving this portion of the Druze community jobless.

“Many families were relying on those salaries. This situation, if it continues, will cause misery for more than 20%of the population in Mount Simaq,” a suspended governmental employee told ARA News on the condition of anonymity. “We have no other resource to earn a living.” 

The Druze minority in Syria, constitutes of about 5% of the total population, mainly inhabiting the province of As-Suwayda in the southern part of the country, while a part of the community is based in Mount Simaq in northwestern Syria. During this four-year war, the Druze have become known for their neutrality towards the conflict, finding a way to survive the bloody war that has already claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people.  

 

Reporting by: Hussam al-Zeer

Source: ARA News

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