by Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph
(...) Many Alawite villages nestled in the hills of their ancestral Latakia province are all but devoid of young men. The women dress only in mourning black.
"Every day there at least 30 men returned from the front lines in coffins," said Ammar, who spoke to the Telegraph using a pseudonym to protect himself and his family.
"In the beginning of the war their deaths were celebrated with big funerals. Now they are quietly dumped in the back of pick-up trucks."
The Syrian government has not published official figures on its war dead. Syrian state television mostly fails to broadcast news of Alawite soldiers killed, instead playing up the deaths of their Sunni comrades, in a bid to shore up Sunni support.
A report by the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights published at the end of last year found that pro-government fighting groups have suffered the greatest proportion of casualties , with over 22,000 soldiers and militiamen killed in 2014 alone.
A disproportionate number of those are Alawites: "In battles with Sunni armed groups, the government doesn't trust their Sunni soldiers not to defect," said one Alawite resident, a former soldier, who asked not to be named. "So the Alawites are sent forward."
The loss of life is causing a quiet rebellion among many in the sect: vilified by the increasingly extremist rebel opposition, most still feel they have little choice but to remain wedded to the regime. But it is an alliance tinged with hatred.
A female resident in Latakia city, also speaking anonymously, said: "Mothers are caring for their children more than for Bashar, and have started trying to hide them away."(...)