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Chris:

"The Druze have tried to remain neutral because they don't trust
either the government or the rebels."

The Druze are in three main places. In northern Idlib, the Druze were
always heavily involved with the FSA and the anti-Assad uprising.
Until Nusra destroyed the FSA's Syrian Revolutionaries Front in late
2014, they lived a free life under the revolution. Even after that,
Druze commanders played a prominent role in the liberation of Idlib
city from the regime in early 2015
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhdTobHYw94&feature=youtu.be),
despite their enemies, Nusra, also taking part. I think in Idlib they
are connected to Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who has taken a
strongly anti-Assad position. Incidentally, he also blamed Assad for
facilitating this ISIS massacre:
http://yalibnan.com/2018/07/28/jumblatt-attacks-syrian-government-over-isis-massacre-of-the-druze-in-sweida/

In the Mount Hermon region in the Syrian Golan, the Druze are under
the regime, and apparently pro-regime (as far as we know). They are
also supported by Israel. While Israel has attacked Iranian/Hezbollah
missile silos, warehouses etc throughout the war, it has never
intervened on the ground to support rebels when fighting pro-Iranian
forces acting as Assad cannon-fodder: and the one and only Israeli
ground support to anyone in the civil war occurred late last year,
when it intervened to prevent the regime-held Druze pocket there
falling to the rebels:
http://en.etilaf.org/all-news/local-news/fsa-breaks-siege-of-beit-jinn-but-later-retreats-as-israeli-forces-intervene-on-assad-militias-side.html

The largest Druze region is the province of Suweida, southeast of
Damascus, which they dominate. This is where the massacre took place.
Here they have kept right out of the war and remained neutral.
However, their rebel neighbours have been the democratic-secular FSA
Southern Front in Daraa province next door. As far as I know, there
has never been any issue with them; there is no sectarianism in the
SF; and the SF has never harassed them about their neutrality. In
contrast, this neutral stance has led to constant conflict with the
regime. In particular, the 'Sheiks for Dignity' movement has strongly
mobilised against the regime. Its leader, Sheikh Balous, was
assassinated a couple of years ago. Most suspect the regime.

“The rebels are a mixed bag.  Some are very hostile to religious
minorities such as the Druze.”

Which “rebels”? Are you referring to Nusra/HTS? I don’t know of any
other rebels that are “very hostile” to the Druze. But Chris
apparently has one:

“Faylaq al-Sham, one of the rebel groups coopted by Turkey and used in
the invasion of Afrin, is carrying out the forced conversion of
Yazidis: 
http://anfenglishmobile.com/rojava/gangs-force-yazidis-in-afrin-to-convert-to-islam/”

The article refers to two reports on extensive violations carried out
by the brigades collaborating with the Turkish occupation of Afrin:

Amnesty International:
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/syria-turkey-must-stop-serious-violations-by-allied-groups-and-its-own-forces-in-afrin/

Human Rights Watch:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/06/14/syria-turkey-backed-groups-seizing-property

Both give a great deal of evidence of extensive violations, but there
is no mention of this forced religious conversion in either. Searching
around, I did find a Patrick Cockburn article on this issue
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-yazidis-isis-islam-conversion-afrin-persecution-kurdish-a8310696.html,
and while Cockburn isn’t someone I would trust these days, I wouldn’t
reject it either. Another article
(https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2018/5/9/turkeys-afrin-operation-stokes-yazidi-fears-and-fuels-displacement)
does confirm that the invading forces destroyed a number of shrines,
but doesn’t talk of forcing kids to go to mosques etc.

Neither article mentions Faylaq al-Sham, basically the Syrian
franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood (the MB in Syria has a
non-sectarian covenant calling for a civil state
https://www.joshualandis.com/blog/the-muslim-brotherhood-issues-a-new-covenant-that-gives-hope/).
I’ve never seen any report on Faylaq being involved in religious
sectarian oppression anywhere in Syria. But in the case of Afrin,
anything is possible: as we all agree, these are all parties to a
foreign occupation and ethnic cleansing operation.

Therefore, overwhelmingly, the crimes described in all these reports
are crimes of occupying powers and their proxies: associated with
theft of property, kidnapping for ransom, expelling people from their
homes etc. It all appears thoroughly opportunist and with almost no
ideological aspect at all. Of course, within the mix, there may well
be some religious extremists and sectarians allowed to do their thing
as well.

I don’t think that anything reported about these violations by
brigades taking part in the invasion and occupation of Afrin
automatically applies to any other “rebels” in Syria, including
chapters in other provinces of franchise groups present in Afrin (eg,
Faylaq).

So really, it comes down to Nusra.

“In June 2015, Jabhat al-Nusra carried out a massacre of 20 Druze in a
village in Idlib.  This was condemned by other rebel groups.”

Yes, I wrote about it here:
https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/revolutionary-forces-throughout-syria-condemn-nusras-massacre-of-druze-villagers/
. In this article, we see one of the condemnations from around Syria
of Nusra’s massacre was several Islamist brigades in Idlib, led by
Ahrar al-Sham (https://twitter.com/Charles_Lister/status/609449774673211392),
a group usually called “hard-line” in western media. Their statement
says that “Islam forbids spilling people’s blood whatever their sect
is” and it refers to “sons of the Druze sect,” and hails their
“support for the Syrian revolution.” So this does not suggest
hostility to the Druze from the most ‘Islamist’ brigade in Syria,
after Nusra.

My article agrees with the description in Louis’ article – that
Nusra’s massacre was a Mafiosi type action over real estate, not a
sectarian massacre as such, that Nusra itself condemned it, and
removed the Tunisian commander etc. However, as I then noted,
regardless of whether or not Nusra came clean with its promise to
punish perpetrators etc, there is a bigger problem: that “some Druze
villages in Idlib are under Nusra control, and have been living under
a regime of forced public conversion to Nusra’s version of Sunni Islam
(http://syriadirect.org/news/idlib-druze-agree-to-forced-conversion-destroyed-shrines-under-nusra-rule/).”

Chris concedes that rebel groups around the country (and of course the
official Syrian opposition) condemned Nusra’s action, but suggests the
forced conversion regime “was not condemned by the other rebel groups
that still existed in Idlib” (“still”? the overwhelming majority of
groups were mot Nusra). He asks if I have other information. But I
cannot follow every statement of every group on every issue. The other
groups quite simply could do nothing about it, as these Druze villages
were in the far north of Idlib province, in a Nusra controlled region.
Without launching a fratricidal war on Nusra, which, given the far
greater danger of the regime, would simply be catastrophic for all,
there was little they could do.

But the language of the Ahrar al-Sham-led statement condemning the
massacre makes clear their view is actively in favour of Druze
religious freedom.

“Religious and ethnic minorities have generally been distrustful of
the rebels.  This has weakened the rebel movement and contributed to
their inability to defeat Assad.”

As a general political statement, yes, this has been a political
weakness, not because most are actively sectarian, but more that they
are forced into operational alliances with sectarian groups like
Nusra, and as the war ground on and blood tended to enhance the
existing sectarian dynamic on the ground, arguably the rebel and
opposition leaderships should have been far more outspoken about it,
should have been “shouting it from the rooftops”, though I think the
main issue has been overwhelmingly the Alawites (who overwhelmingly
dominate the military-security apparatus that kills them), not the
Druze or even Christians. The Syrian rebels do include many minority
members, have mostly consistently condemned sectarianism, and the
opposition Syrian Coalition includes representatives of all sects, and
all programmatic declarations have been heavily anti-sectarian, but
yes, in the circumstances, it has not been enough. That’s part of the
bigger political post-mortem we need to carry out.


On Sat, Aug 11, 2018 at 9:29 AM, MM via Marxism
<marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:
> ********************  POSTING RULES & NOTES  ********************
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>
>> On Aug 10, 2018, at 7:13 PM, MM <marxmai...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>> On Aug 10, 2018, at 5:57 PM, Chris Slee via Marxism 
>>> <marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu <mailto:marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu>> wrote:
>>>
>>> The rebels are a mixed bag.
>>
>>
>> This kind of reckless, uncritical use of the phrase “the rebels” is just 
>> about the most toxic thing anyone on the left can say in regard to the 
>> Syrian conflct. It’s incredibly irresponsible; it’s also murderous of clear 
>> thinking, and completely malignant. It plays directly into the kind of 
>> “guilt by association” that has made peace activists, the White Helmets, and 
>> god knows how many others targets for extermination.
>
> Maybe this will help:
>
> “The Kurds are a mixed bag.”
>
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