Elizabeth Tsurkov is a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, where she specializes in Syria and Iraq. (July 2019)

Follow Elizabeth Tsurkov on Twitter: @Elizrael.

NYR DAILY

Between Regime and Rebels: A Survey of Syria’s Alawi Sect

A fighter from the Ansar al-Sham brigade standing on a ridge in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia during a rebel offensive against regime positions in the coastal heartland of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawi sect, 2014

The Assad regime’s heavy reliance on Alawis in the army units and militias dispatched to the front-lines, coupled with the community’s relatively small size, have resulted in disproportionate losses of the sect’s young men. In addition, corruption and war-profiteering, mainly benefitting high-ranking regime officers and mukhabarat (secret police) agents, reinforced the image of Alawis as corrupt, privileged and rich, in the eyes of Sunnis. The Alawis are fully aware of this image and are quick to reject it. “We are a community that sacrificed many of its youth, and lived, and is still living, in poverty,” said Samira, a twenty-five-year-old university student. “The ugly, barbaric way people picture us is applicable to barely one percent of us.”