Reuters reports: The view from the rooftops makes the balance of power clear. In some neighborhoods, cars and people scurry about. In others, only the scarred shells of empty homes remain.
After months of fierce military assaults and rebel ambushes in Homs, the centre of Syria’s 15-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad has effectively become two cities.
Along the scorched and crumbling skyline is a well-preserved archipelago of districts, home to Syria’s minority Alawite sect, the offshoot of Shi’ite Islam to which Assad belongs.
Alawites have mostly sided with Assad and have barricaded themselves in Homs – protected by the Syrian army that has now made their neighborhoods a second home.
“We’re always nervous, but we will stay and survive,” says Abu Ali, a 60-year old sitting in his mini market in the Alawite neighborhood of Zahra.
“It is the Sunni areas that are empty – at least the ones that asked for ‘freedom’,” he said, referring to districts that backed the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad.
The rebellious districts that once belonged to Sunni Muslims are ghost towns. Only about three of the 16 Sunni districts have not been pummeled by military assaults.
Many Alawites say they feel they have no choice but to back Assad, fearing retaliatory slaughter for religious affiliation with the president as the revolt becomes increasingly sectarian.
“The Sunnis have been oppressed,” said one Alawite man. “But Alawites will be the victims.” [Continue reading…]