The Ottomans in Syria: A History of Justice and Oppression

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By contrast, the Circassians were overrepresented in the army, but poorly represented in parliament and the police. The Alawites were overrepresented among the soldiers, but poorly represented in politics, the officer corps, the gendarmerie and the police. The pattern set during the French mandate and carried over into the independence era was the Syrian nationalist leadership's rejection of Arab unity as its principal political goal. Nationalists faced an awkward contradiction between pan-Arab unity and local self-interest.

Most nationalist leaders failed to transcend their narrow town-based ideologies and did not share a broad vision of the future. Political life in Syria was characterized by chaotic rivalries within the political elite itself, in single towns or between leaders in rival towns, or between the urban-nationalist elite and the rural-based leadership of the compact minorities. The Alawites and Druze had enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy during the French mandate.

Following independence in , the Syrian nationalist leadership had the tremendous task of integrating the compact minorities and the scattered minorities such as Kurds, Circassians and Armenians. After independence, pan-Arab, Baathist, Greater Syrian and Palestinian slogans were the main rallying points for many political movements, but local and regional loyalties still influenced political and social commitments. French mandate policies prevented the development of any cohesive or definable loyalty to a Syrian nation-state. Arab identity was stronger than Syrian identity, and borders were only technically respected.

Roots of Alawite-Sunni Rivalry in Syria

Moreover, the lack of any shared loyalty meant that regional political conflicts were projected into the national political arena. Men whom nothing united, sharing no principles. Before independence, Syrian nationalists were represented in the National Bloc al-Kutla al-Wataniya , a confederation of veterans of various backgrounds and interests who were united in the struggle for independence. When the mandate ended, the urban Sunni elite inherited the Syrian government.

After independence, the Syrian government's major goal was to reduce, and gradually to abolish, regional and communal representation in the parliament, where those who had benefited from French rule were mainly the compact minorities. A major step in this direction was to abolish certain jurisdictional rights that were granted to the Alawites and the Druze by the French mandate. The abolition of jurisdictional rights in order to establish a centralized rule in Damascus ignited confrontation among the minorities.

The Alawite seats in parliament and the courts that applied Alawite laws of personal status also were abolished. The Alawites became reconciled to common Syrian citizenship and gave up the dream of a separate Alawite state. This change of outlook, which seemed to be of minor importance at the time, actually led to a new era in Syrian politics: the political rise of the Alawites.

Until , the Alawites were known to the outside world as the Nusayris or Ansaris.

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The name change was imposed by the French when they seized control in Syria. The French set up an Alawite state, "the state of Latakia," on July 1, The Alawites also gained legal autonomy: in Arrete no. The French employed the principle of divide and rule in the Troupes recruitment too. The aim was to prevent any of the communities from obtaining a position so powerful as to be able to endanger the French administration. Based on the French design, the army developed a strong rural and minority representation, with special detachments of Alawites, Druze, Kurds and Circassians.

Alawites served under French officers along with the other "reliable" minorities 15 in local forces. The French favored recruiting rural minorities because they were far from the urban-dominant political ideology, Arab nationalism. The French policy of military recruitment involved weakening the forces of nationalism that Arab Sunnis used to challenge the French over the future of Syria.

As a result, in the mids, when that struggle was at its height, Arab Sunni representation in the army was much lower than their numbers in the population. Largely composed of minorities, their activities generated resentment among Sunnis. By the end of the mandate, several infantry battalions were composed almost entirely of Alawites. Not one battalion was composed entirely of Sunni Arabs. Even those few battalions with significant Sunni Arab components were filled mostly with men from rural areas and far-off towns.

The wealthy Sunni Arab landowning and commercial families, who led the Arab nationalist movement during the mandate, indirectly reinforced the trend towards strong representation of minorities in the Troupes by refusing to send their sons for military training, even as officers, in a force which they viewed as serving France's imperial interests.

The Alawites constituted some 12 percent of the Syrian population. From the Ottoman period, they were the most numerous and the poorest peasants in Syria, working for Sunni and Christian landlords in the mountain regions and in Latakia, at the foot of the Alawite mountains. The political effects of poverty were worsened by the geographic and communal divisions. The Sunnis who lived in towns enjoyed much greater wealth and dominated the Alawite peasants. According to Jacques Weulersse, the Alawites were "a numerical majority but a political minority.

The average daily income of a peasant in was only about 22 piastres, while the cost of living was approximately 50 piastres. This drove great numbers of Alawites to enrol in the Troupes. Depressed economic conditions made the army a vehicle for social mobility. For the first time, Alawite youth benefited from a small, but secure, income and became disciplined, trained and exposed to new ideas. As Seale states, "Service with the French established the beginning of an Alawi military tradition central to the community's later ascent.

This incentive was less significant for people from the larger cities, mainly Sunnis. Urban dwellers frequently found it easier than their rural counterparts to avoid military service by paying a redemption fee. It is understandable that many members of Alawite communities were among the military and that, especially after , when the first of a long series of military coups took place, they started to dominate Syrian political life.

A military report describing the situation of the Syrian Army in stated that "all units of any importance as well as the important parts stood under the command of persons originating from religious minorities.


As opposed to the Alawites, who saw the Military Academy of Homs as a place for the ambitious and talented, the wealthy Sunni Arab families often despised the army as a profession: They regarded the Academy as "a place for the lazy, the rebellious, the academically backward, or the socially undistinguished. The Alawites, although excessively represented in the army, were just the corporals, sergeants and junior officers before the takeover by the Baath party in On the other hand, the most important group, which undertook politically and strategically important military functions, was the senior Sunni officer corps.

Sunni leaders apparently believed that reserving the top positions for themselves would suffice to control the military. The leaders of the first three military coups between and were all Sunnis. In the period between and , when the Syrian-Egyptian union the United Arab Republic was established, the officer corps was strongly divided into rival factions. The "union pledge," which was made in January , was led mainly by Sunni officers; in September , another coup, which separated Syria from the union, was also led by Sunni officers.

Pan-Arabism aimed at the political resurrection of the Arabs as one nation. In contrast to the nationalist movements in neighboring countries like Turkey and Iran, pan-Arab nationalists were not working within the boundaries of an internationally recognized country.

The Ottomans in Syria: a history of justice and oppression - Dick Douwes - Google книги

Arab nationalists had to struggle against the artificial political divisions imposed by France and Britain. Pan-Arabism had to compete with "a deep-rooted and almost instinctive commitment to Islam. All non-Sunni Arabs, heterodox Muslims and Christians were allotted a secondary place and seen as "imperfect Arabs. Although pan-Arab nationalists made an effort to amalgamate Islam into their ideology by stressing its central role in Arab culture and history, for too many Sunni Muslims it was not a solution; pan-Arabism placed Islam in a less important position.

The religious minorities supported the Baath's nationalistic ideology, in which all Arabs were equal, whether Sunni Muslims, Alawites or members of other heterodox Muslim communities or Christians. The Baath party was the product of the growth of secular ideas and of pan-Arab nationalist sentiment.

Aflaq and Bitar had supported this pan-Arab nationalist ideology since their school days. In , they devoted themselves to the creation of a movement dedicated "to achieving freedom hurriyah from foreign control and the unity wihdah of all Arabs in a single state. To these goals, the Baathists added socialism ishtirakiyah , which they interpreted as social justice for the poor and underprivileged. During the congress, a different group emerged: some were from Latakia, and the majority of them were Alawites.

They shared the Baath goals of Arab independence and unity but differed in their approach to social issues. They were the followers of Zaki Arsuzi, an influential Alawite intellectual, himself a follower of another Alawite, Dr. Any other coaching guidance?

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