by Mordechai Kedar
Syria comprises 14 administrative districts that reflect the demographic distribution of the population.
The source of the map is: http://www.kurdistanabinxete.com/Besha_Erebi_Erd_Netewe.htm
1. The 'Alawites in the West: in the districts of Latakiya and Tartus - the Mountains of Ansariyya, the mountains where the Alawites have inhabited for the past thousand years.
2. The Kurds in the North: in the district of Hasaka.
3. The Druze in the South: in the District of Suwayda'- the Mountain of the Druze (Jabal al-Druze)
4. The Bedouins in the East: in the District of Deir ez-Zor
5. The District of Aleppo in the North
6. The District of Damascus in the South, comprising the District of the City of Damascus and its outskirts.
Following the collapse of the central government, Syria is likely to be divided up according to its ethnic groups, and this division will be fairly similar to the map of administrative districts: six main districts; the rest of the districts will either become independent or autonomous, or all or some of them will join one of the groups mentioned above.
It could be that some of the districts will declare themselves to be totally independent, and others will form some sort of federation.
Opposite the Golan is the district of Kuneitra. This district may unite with the district of Dara'a and Damascus, so that facing Israel will be a state whose center is Damascus. It is very doubtful that the district of Suwayda' will join it, because it is likely that the Druze will declare themselves to be independent. In the year 1925, when they understood that the French Mandate wanted to bring them into the framework of a Syrian state, they began a rebellion that continued for several months, under the leadership of Sultan Basha al-Atrash, a statue of whose likeness, riding on a noble horse with his unsheathed sword in hand, adorns the squares of the Druze villages, and whose picture is hung on the wall of every Druze household.
About two million 'Alawites live in Syria, who represent a minority of about 10 percent of the citizens of the state. Their traditional area of residence is the Mountains of Ansariyya, the topographical continuation of the Israeli Galilee and the Lebanese mountains. All these mountains are mainly settled by religious and ethnic minorities: Druze, Christians, 'Alawites and Shi'ites, because these minorities were persecuted by the Sunni Muslim majority in the area. The mountains served these minorities as a place of shelter and refuge for several reasons: the mountain caves provide convenient hiding places; it is difficult for a large army to reach them; and it's easy for the local residents to block approach roads by tumbling down boulders and trees.
The 'Alawites, who are considered heretics by Islam, were vigorously persecuted until the French Mandate rescued them from their miserable situation, when it armed and equipped them and made them into soldiers and officers. After the Ba'th revolution of 1963, and especially after Salah Jadid assumed control of the regime in 1966, many 'Alawites moved to the cities: Aleppo, Homs, Hama and principally Damascus, where they live in self-contained neighborhoods.
Following the expected fall of the 'Alawite rule, they will need to flee from their neighborhoods because of the hatred with which the Muslims regard them and the desire of Muslims to take revenge on the 'Alawites for tens of years of oppression, which reached terrible proportions during the past year. Some of them will flee abroad, but most will flee to the Ansariyya Mountains, the mountains where they lived in the past. In recent weeks the Syrian regime has been streaming great quantities of arms and ammunition to the mountains of Ansariyya so that they will be able to fortify themselves in these mountains after the great escape.
The Kurds are traditionally residents of the Hasaka area in the North of Syria, however over the years many have migrated to the cities, mainly Aleppo and Damascus. The Kurds and the Arabs relate to each other with mutual hatred. The Kurds are distributed among four states: Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In Iraq they are almost totally independent. However, in Syria they are oppressed, especially since the state of Syria was established in the year 1943. Most don't have citizenship, and therefore they cannot hold government office and are not entitled to health or educational services. The regime does not recognize their language and their culture, and whatever they have achieved over the years has been as the result of demonstrations, some of which were violent, and "buying the favors" of the government.
The Kurds in Syria already sniff the scent of freedom from the Arab regime, and they are establishing contact with their brothers in Iraq who support them in their path to independence.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally.
Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:
- The Death Throes of the Lion
- Mordechai Kedar: An Old Governmental System in FormationFrustration and Extortion
- Thank You, Hamas
- Drums of War in the Gulf
- 2011: The Year of the Arab Winter
- And This is the Gate of Heaven
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