The New York Times reports: Like all the small children in the desert refugee camp here, Ibtisam, 11, is eager to go home to the toys, bicycles, books, cartoons and classmates she left behind in Syria.
But not if that means living with Alawites, members of the same minority offshoot of Shiite Islam as Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. “I hate the Alawites and the Shiites,” Ibtisam said as a crowd of children and adults nodded in agreement. “We are going to kill them with our knives, just like they killed us.”
If the fighters seeking to oust Mr. Assad sometimes portray their battle as a struggle for democracy, the Sunni Muslim children of the Zaatari camp tell a much uglier story of sectarian revenge. Asked for their own views of the grown-up battle that drove them from their homes, child after child brought up their hatred of the Alawites and a thirst for revenge. Children as young as 10 or 11 vowed never to play with Syrian Alawite children or even pledged to kill them.
Parroting older relatives — some of whom openly egged them on — the youngsters offered a disturbing premonition of the road ahead for Syria.
Their unvarnished hatred helps explain why so many Alawites, who make up more than 10 percent of the Syrian population, have stood by Mr. Assad even as the world has written him off. They see him as their best protection against sectarian annihilation. [Continue reading…]