A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Syria's Embattled Druze Between al-Nusra and Asad

It isn't just the Druze of Israel and the Golan who are alarmed by the attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra on the Druze of Syria, but so far the Syrian Druze seem more intent on defending their threatened territory rather than seeking support from the Asad regime or Israel. Usually irrepressible Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt initially responded to the massacre of Druze villagers in northern Syria. Jabhat al-Nusra reportedly executed at least 20 Druze civilians in the northern governorate of Idlib, an area without a large Druze population. But the killings raised alarm in the more heavily Druze southern governorates of Sweida and Dar‘a. Sweida is heavily Druze and Dar‘a, where fighting has been heavy since the outbreak of the war, has a substantial Druze population as well. Sweida governorate is the region of the Jabal Hawran, also known as the Jabal Druze. Both Sweida and Dar‘a governorates adjoin the Jordanian border.

Irrepressible Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt initially called he massacre an isolated incident, and told a press conference, "We don’t need Assad or Israel. Both of them take a sectarian stance with the aim of perpetuating sectarianism and dividing the country.” But he also flew to Jordan to meet the King and intercede for the safety of Druze refugees in Jordan. Both Sweida and Dar‘a adjoin the Jordanian border.

Syrian Druze, like Syrian Christians and ‘Alawites, have traditionally supported he regime as a protection of minorities against Sunni jihadis. While some Druze leaders have continued to urge Druze to enlist in the regime army, others have said Druze fighters are absolved of responsibility to the regime and should defend their own home villages.

Jebel Druze State under French Mandate
Increasingly, as with the Kurdish region in the north that now calls itself Rojava, the Druze of Syria are looking to their own self-defense. During the French Mandate period, which deliberately partitioned Syria and Lebanon on sectarian lines, the Jabal Druze enjoyed a brief autonomy with its own flag, until France had to put down a Druze revolt.  The flag of the Jabal Druze 'state' in the Mandate period is the basis for variations used today as a Druze flag,

Modern Druze Flag
Whether we are returning to those days, with separate Kurdish, ‘Alawite, and Druze enclaves, or simply towards  collapse into anarchy, remains an open question.

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