The Druze of Suwayda: The Embers of Dissent
by Mazen Ezzi, Al-Jumhuriya English
Sheikh Wahid Balaous called for religious reform and a council to regulate the affairs of the sect with elected sheikhs on the basis of religious rank and without intervention from others. This call to form a religious council to run the affairs of the sect surfaced for the first time after a great section of the religious body called for it in 1995. The regime, however, continuously refused it; approval was related to a special office that answers to the Presidency. The sect council takes some authority from the mundane side of the Sheikhs’. The Sheikh is left to follow up religious affairs and represents the sect with the government, as in Lebanon.
The remarkable fact about Dignity Sheikhs movement, led by Sheikh Wahid Balaous, is that it was not restricted to religious Druze, which indicates a return of active popular activity, against the will of the regime even though it is not directed completely against the regime itself. The fact that members of the National Defense Militia joined the Dignity Sheikhs movement indicated the strength and continuity of the Druze social contract despite the regime’s attempts to form other parallel bodies throughout the reign of the Baath regime.
By the way in the same context I also recommend Aymenn Al-Tamimi's great work at Syria Comment on the newly established Druze militias including those affiliated with Bal'us.