The Alawi community occupies the mountain ranges of North-western Syria where this group of individuals have continued to maintain their fierce syncretic secret religion for over 10 decades. Despite the constant prosecution and threat of distinction majorly from the Sunni community, the Alawi community managed to live and survive on their own. As one of the minority groups in Syria, the Sunni majority and rulers as pagans and heretics considered the Alawi community. The community was branded ineligible for the status of a group that cannot be protected by any religion. Until 1920, other communities as Nusayris knew the Alawi community. After 1920, the French changed the name of the community from Nusayris to Ansaris to suggest the community’s adherence to religious similarities to other Islamic groups like Shia. Today, three-quarter of Alawites live in the province of Latakia where they form part of the extremist Shi’a group commonly known as the Ghulat.
Otherwise stated, about 12 percent of the Syrian Muslim population today is made up of the Alawites; a community known to have effectively ruled Syria for close to a half-a-century. With several Alawites in key military positions in Syria, the community is considered among the richest as most of their efforts are directed towards rural economic development.
Based on religion, the Alawites are known to practice more unique and little form of Islamic, a doctrine that dates back to the 10th Century (Alfonso 272). According to our investigations, we can to realize that the secretive nature of the Alawites is as a result of several years of isolation and oppression from the mainstreams of societal and periodical prosecution by some of the major groups like the Sunni Muslims. The Alawites also belief in divine incarnation and holiday celebrations like Christmas, and some of their strong beliefs are derived from the veneration of Imam Ali.
While Alawite Syrians were opposed to the Ottoman’s rule, today the community play important political role in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad belongs to the Alawite family, and this means that higher ranks in Assad’s army are mainly held by the Alawites. This means that al-Assad enjoys strong political support from the Alawite community, but strongly opposed by the rebel army from the Sunni community. On similar counts, Alawite Syrians seem to have no good relationship with the Western Countries, and the French. The hatred this community has against the Western countries and French is mainly voiced by Bashar al-Assad who feels that there is no mutual respect between Syria and the West.
Historians link Syrian Turkmen to the nomadic immigrant tribesmen of Anatolia and Mesopotamia regions. By 11th Century, the Turkmen had established permanent residences in northern Syria from their earlier sedentary lives. Following the distribution of fiefs by the Zengi, the Turkmen community grew in their activities and later become one of the strongest communities in Syria. For instance, the community became part of the Damascus and Aleppo armies by 13th century; and army that was recognized for its strength and tactics during war. Other studies also argue that the Syrian Turkmen community might have descended from the Oghuz Turkish tribe; the Oghuz were tribal immigrants from the Central Asia who in their movement decided to settle in Syria in mid-10th Century. Currently, the Turkmen are categorized under the Sunni Muslim with a percentage ranging from 2 to 3 of the entire Muslim population. The Turkmen are among the poor member communities in Syrian and most of their activities are connected to rebel attacks. Majority of members of this community fall under the rebel army with major targets on government officials and functions.
Even though the community was transitioned into sedentary ways of life, members of the community still felt that their nomadic ways of life had proven important and contributed towards the new ventures. The Ottoman rule started when the Turkmen communities were autonomous and ruled by hereditary chiefs. In 1518, the Ottoman Empire conducted a population census, which indicated that the Aleppo population was part of the Turkmen community. Due to the large number of Turkmen population, Ottoman decided to settle Turkmens in the rural areas of Hama and Homs where majority of members of the population operated as tax collectors.
Turkmen community, just like the Sunni Muslims, is opposed to Assad’s rule and forces because the community believes that there is a strong relationship between Assad forces and other opposing groups. The community also hates Western countries because member of the rebel forces feel that the International community is controlled by Western countries that constantly ignore their call for support against Assad forces.
The Sunni Muslim is one of the largest religious groups is Syria, and through its Islamic faith, the Sunni community has set religious tone across Syria and currently provides basic values that guide other community members. Sunnis are mainly of the Shafi’s Madhhab with scarce Hanafi and Hanbali (Zadok 610), but distributed across the entire country. The history of conflict between Sunni Muslim and other communities started in the year 632 after with the split from the Shiites following the death of Prophet Muhammad. The split between the Sunnis and Shiites followed the dispute and quest to succeed Prophet Muhammad when Ali, the wife of Muhammad’s daughter, was chosen by the Shia community to succeed Prophet Muhammad. As identified from among the Muslim members, Sunnis community, beliefs are pegged on Islamic religion and use the Quran as their spiritual book. Even though in the past Sunnis were known to be strong and oppressed other groups like the Alawites, there dominion over Syria has reduced significantly since the fall of Ottoman’s rule. However, majority of members of the community are still among the richest with very few individuals considered middle-income earners (Rochow 57).
The Sunnis, like other few communities in Syria, are aware of the need for modern education, especially with the needs to develop a population that can stand the country’s strong political and social upheavals. Therefore, secularization is dispersing among Sunnis, particularly among the youths in towns and in the military. While the Sunnis are opposed to the current Bashar al-Assad’s rule, they stood as strong supporters of the French government prior to the collapse of the Ottoman’s regime. With this support, they held top positions in French government, and this allowed them to control other smaller communities in Syria. The fact that the community is opposed to Assad’s rule means that they are in good terms with Western countries and have a strong linking for French.
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Rochow, I. “The Contribution of Monophysite Syrian and Armenian Historians to Byzantine Prosopography ofthe 8th-Century.” Byzantinoslavica 56.1 (1995): 55-61.
Zadok, Ran. “On the prosopography and onomastics of Syria. Palestine adn adjacent regions.” Ugarit-Forschungen 32 (2000): 599-674.