Druse in Majdal Shams rally for Syria´s Assad (JERUSALEM POST) By BEN HARTMAN 04/18/12)
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Syrian President Bashar Assad may be a pariah in most parts of the
world, but in parts of Israel the autocrat still has a diehard
following, at least at first glance.
Around 200 people, chanting “the army and the people are with Assad,”
marched around the central square of the Druse village of Majdal
Shams on Monday, in a rally held to mark Syrian Independence Day and
to show support for the Assad regime, whose forces have murdered
thousands in a 13- month violent uprising.
Demonstrators of all ages held up posters of Assad, and at least two
of former Egyptian president Gamel Abdul Nasser, and women threw rice
at the crowd and ululated as fiery speeches screamed out of a stack
of speakers on the stage.
Majdal Shams resident Rafik Kalami, 46, said most people still
support Assad because the Golan Heights is an inseparable part of
When asked about the thousands of civilians killed in Syria since the
uprising began, he said that he supports Assad, and is opposed
to “all those from the Gulf States, Turkey and elsewhere who are
against Syria and we will fight them with all of our might.”
Kalami offered an explanation heard repeatedly at protests and in
conversation with the village’s residents since the uprising began:
The Syrian army is not massacring civilians. Rather, gunmen sent from
the Gulf states and elsewhere in the Arab world are murdering
civilians and soldiers in order to frame the Assad regime in the eyes
of the world. Kalami also accused Arabic satellite networks Al
Jazeera and Al-Arabiya of twisting the reality, an accusation not
leveled at Syrian state TV.
He added that the Arab world is colluding with Israel and the US to
attack Syria as a means of harming Iran and further cementing
Israel’s standing as the region’s preeminent power, through
supporting “terrorists” streaming into Syria from Libya and elsewhere.
The show of support for Assad, like many things in the Syrian Druse
villages of the Golan Heights, should be taken with a grain of salt.
Most of the residents of Majdal Shams have relatives in Syria who
could pay the price if they spoke out against the regime, and many
err on the side of supporting Assad on the off chance that the land
they live on will eventually return to Syria. Furthermore, in a town
of over 10,000, a protest that drew barely 200 people on a morning
when nearly all businesses in town were closed is arguably not a
massive show of support for the Assad regime.
Since the uprising began in Syria, there has been, on occasion,
violence directed at people in town who voiced opposition to Assad.
According to one local resident, who asked not to be named, a group
of teenagers in Majdal Shams beat and hospitalized a 60- year-old
father of four in the town Sunday night, because he was believed to
support the Syrian opposition. The teenagers reportedly waited for
him outside of his medical practice.
Majdal Shams is the largest Druse village in the Golan Heights,
followed by Bukata, Ein Kuniya and Mas’ada. The Golan Heights Druse
refused to take Israeli citizenship when the country annexed the
territory in 1981 and consequently, most are considered Syrian
One resident, who asked not to be named, said “I look at what’s
happening in Syria and it’s very difficult, it’s a genocide. To see
innocent people being murdered, it’s very hard.”
He added that the Druse of the Golan work and live in Israel, “which
protects our rights and doesn’t kill us like the Syrian regime kills
When asked what percentage of residents support Assad privately as
well as publicly, he said that the silent majority don’t speak about
the issue and those who are most vocal are those who support Assad.
He said part of their reason for supporting him is also because he is
from the minority Alawite sect, and the Druse worry that if Assad
falls, Alawites and other minorities in Syria like the Druse will be
In addition, he said many fear the rise of Islamists, who he said
could single out Druse as being not true Muslims.
He added that “they also worry that Israel will return the Golan
Heights like they did Sinai or Gush Katif and they want to protect
themselves and their families in Syria.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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