Homs: Sectarianism Lebanese War Style

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A fallen chandelier lies on debris in Im Al-Zinar church that was damaged during clashes between Syrian Rebels and the Syrian Regime in Bustan al Diwan, Homs 23 July 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Yazen Homsy)

By: Muhammad Saleh, Laila Awwad

Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Homs governorate, the largest geographical region in Syria, is now the biggest arena for sectarianism and extremism, exacerbated by all sides in the crisis: the Syrian regime, religious extremists, and warlords.

Homs - The city, whose citizens have coexisted for thousands of years, is exploding along sectarian lines.

Developments there demonstrate a turning point towards a bleak future. Despite all the analysis and slogans about a united Syrian people, the reality on the ground is starkly different.

Diving into the details of the carnage in Homs, residents explain the geographical distribution of the city and the different Alawi, Sunni, and Christian districts.

The neighborhoods of al-Zahraa and al-Nuzha are home to two of the biggest Alawi communities, after the mixed al-Muhajirin neighborhood and the Armenian quarter.

Bustan al-Diwan and Wadi al-Masihiya are strictly non-Armenian Christian quarters, in addition to al-Waer, al-Qusur, and al-Hamidiya, which are considered to be some of the most populated areas.

As are the predominantly Sunni Bab al-Sebaa, Baba Amr, al-Khalidiya, and Deir Balaa.

These Sunni districts have been emptied of their inhabitants, who fled to other governorates due to the military operations conducted there.

Homs has been divided into two. One section was completely destroyed. The other is full of life. Its markets carry all the basic commodities needed for daily life.

But tension is rife between the different neighborhoods, which identify themselves based on the religion of their inhabitants. Sectarian animosity will likely be deeply ingrained for years to come.

There are those who now have but one dream – to eradicate those from the other neighborhoods.

The problem has reached a crisis point: killings, the disfiguring of corpses, and kidnappings.

The regime has remained silent over many cases of what it had called security violations and mistakes, and this has made things even worse.

During the sectarian battles, which in some cases reached the level of massacres, the regime sometimes did not even issue a statement of condemnation.

Many in Homs interpreted this to mean tacit support for such crimes.

Voices opposing and condemning the sectarian attacks were faint, and sometimes led to encouraging religious zeal instead of reducing it.

Most of those wounded in the battles are now insisting on killing and revenge, in a language replete with sectarian anger.

Nevertheless, voices of reason are not absent from Homs. Sunni and Alawi activists have brought some people back to the grey area at least.

They calmed peoples nerves and tried to convince them that what had happened was a sectarian trap.

But at the same time, the media machines of the regime and some opposition groups insist on promoting armed gangs who come to exterminate people from the opposing sect.

Some activists are still defending the actions of the Free Syrian Army, which is attacking Alawi neighborhoods with mortar shells.

They claim it is merely a reaction meant to terrorise the regime and is a small response to the regime’s atrocities.

Neither side will rest without a radical solution to the crisis. The majority Sunnis, who are in the opposition, believe the solution is in the overthrow of the regime and the dissolution of the security forces.

The other side sees the solution in the elimination of armed gangs.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


killing each other is an arab tradition

I wish the muslims would leave the Christian nation of Syria (Aram), and let the all-Christian Aramaic aboriginals and the Christian Armenians, Arabs and others they host there be rid of all islam now and forever. Amazing how Churches are hit worse than mosques.

The Assad regime fails to condemn the sectarian violence because it plays into its narrative of being the 'only' guarantor to mInority rights in Syria. Many Alawis and Christians buy into this argument, further buttressed by Salafists and radical fundamentalist attacks on these minority communities.

For his part, Assad has unleashed murderous Shabiha militias to conduct massacres in Sunni villages and neighborhoods, increasingly so, because his regular army infantry has been decimated by Sunni defections from the armed forces. Some analysts even see a gegraphical rationale in these murders, seeking the ethnic cleansing of certain areas in Northwest Syria, as a preparation for a post-Syria Alawite homeland. Even the Kurds have begun preparations for the emergence of an autonomous post-Syria Kurdish state.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to support Al Qaeda and Salafists fighters in Syria with weapons and materiel, driven by their hatred of Shias, but they will find that this strategy is short sighted and counterproductive, because the religious ideologies of these groups are antithetical to Saudi and Qatari rule by royal families.

Eventually, after massacres of Syrian minorities, these fighters will eventy turn their attention to Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries, exporting their jihadist caliphate iolence against their former patrons, but it will come too late to help Syria.

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