Sunday, June 21, 2015

The current crisis of the Syrian Druze: recommended reading

The news are allover: The Druze in Syria are said to face an existential crisis. This is of course not fully true but it is undeniable that during the last weeks some extremely worrying developments have occurred:

1. ISIS has increased its activity in the East of Suwaida’. They attacked the village of Huquf on May 15, killing six inhabitants including 18 years old Mariana as-Sman. True or not, on Druze social media massive allegations circulated blaming the regime for allowing ISIS into the province. Later ISIS entered the Lajah area between Suwaida’ and Dar‘a and started to fight against rebel forces.

2. This brings us to the next hot spot, the West of Suwaida’ which is currently penetrated by different rebel groups including Jabhat an-Nusra. Especially around the Thula-airbase a fierce battle is fought. Here Druze militiamen are also involved, who had refused to fight in Dar‘a during rebel-offensive earlier this year.

3. The massacre of 23 Druze villagers by Jabhat an-Nusra in the village of Qalb Lawza last week (frequent readers of this blog might remember my earlier analysis on the Idlib Druze).

4. The situation in the Golan-Hermon region, which has been bad for the Druze villages since nearly two years and was only eased in the meantime due to a presence of on the region. Now Hizballah has enough to do in the Qalamun and the Druze are more or less on their own. The village of Hadar (situated directly on the 1973 ceasefire line with Israel) is encircled and subject to heavy shelling. In Israel the public pressure on the government to intervene in favour of the Druze is enormous.

Since I don't have time to present you a proper analysis of the current situation myself (and much is written of disputable quality about Syria's Druze these days), I recommend four articles which stand out in one way or the other:

by Aymenn al-Tamimi, Syria Comment
Al-Tamimi provides a detailed account of the events in Qalb Lawza but also a  analysis of Nusra's policies - its his best work on the Druze so far.
by Makram Rabah, Middle East Eye
A historian and frequent contributor to Lebanese pro-March 14 outlet Now, Rabah gives a sober overview of the current situation and advocates Walid Junblats pragmatic line regarding the Syrian Druze.
by Eyad Abu Shakra, Asharq al-Awsat
In the pan-Arab Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat veteran Lebanese-British  journalist Eyad Abu Shakra, who is an expert on Druze politics, has an opinion piece discussing the implications of the Qalb Lawza massacre from the viewpoint of the Syrian opposition.

Syria’s Druze: Waging peace in times of war
Hezbollah and Israel's common interest in Syria
by Yossi Melman, The Jerusalem Post
Melman, the leading Israeli journalist regarding intelligence-issues, gives an account from an (Israeli) viewpoint of his metier and is telling some very interesting details I have found nowhere else.
Syria’s Druze: Waging peace in times of war

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Former Syrian-Druze rebel leader dies in Austria

Former Druze rebel dies in car accident 
The Daily Star
A former Druze rebel commander in the suburbs of Damascus was killed in a car accident this weekend in Austria, his friends said. They said Hussam Dib was en route to Germany when the accident occurred. Supporters of the uprising against the Syrian regime praised Dib as the founder of the Bani Maarouf Commandos militia, which attracted rebel fighters from the Druze community as well as other sectarian affiliations in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital. However, Dib’s group, which later changed its name to the Youssef al-Azmeh Brigade, was unable to continue fighting due to funding problems and pressure from Islamist militias. (...)
Hussam Dib announcing the establishmen of the Bani Ma'ruf Commando in late 2012
Swedish Journalist Carl Drott provides a fascinating account of the Dawronoye, a Christian guerrilla force, operating in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Read all about its roots in the Turkish far left of the 1980s, its relationship with the Kurdish PKK and how its caders helped to set up the Syriac Military Council. Noteworthy is how the fighters interviewed were annoyed by the ongoing argument in the diaspora, whether they should call themselves Syriacs, Assyrian or Aramean.