Hassan Hassan writes: A quiet insurrection against the Assad regime has been building for the past year in the Syrian province of Sweida, home to the bulk of the country’s minority Druze population. The rebellion reached a crescendo this week when a prominent religious figure declared that the Druze were no long obliged to serve in the Syrian Arab Army — a development that poses a major threat to the teetering regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has long been losing soldiers to defections and desertions and more recently been losing ground to an increasingly more organized and effective rebel force.
Over the course of the Syrian civil war, religious minorities have proved instrumental to the resilience of the regime, which used the support of Alawites, Christians and Druze to bolster its claims of legitimacy inside and outside the country. While that remains true today, Druze seem to be pushing for a different reality than the one Assad imposed on minorities for his own survival. Depending on how the regime manages the situation, a mass Druze abandonment of the regime could prove pivotal in the how the war progresses from here.
The discontent in Sweida began in earnest during the sham presidential “election” held June 2014, when the regime sought to bolster its domestic support by cajoling minority groups to rally on its behalf. Clerics marched from the Ain al-Zaman shrine, one of the Druze’s most revered places of worship, to protest against the use of Druze religious imagery to promote Assad. The clerics asked for the sacking of the military security chief in the province and proclaimed that Druze represented only their sect and should not be labelled as backers of the regime. [Continue reading…]