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The economic crisis is beginning to break the foundation of Assad Alawi’s support

The economic crisis is beginning to break the foundation of Assad Alawi’s support

In villages along the Syrian coast, memories of dead soldiers mark the sacrifice made by the Alawi minority to defend President Bashar al-Assad, also an Alawite. But, more than a decade after the start of the civil war, his regime is struggling to keep the lights on in his heart as well.

The war destroyed a large part of Syria and, with the authoritarian Assad under the control of two-thirds of the country, an unprecedented economic crisis threatens to destroy what remains, including the Alawis. in his army.

Like all Syrians, the Alawites are struggling with impoverishment, blackouts, scarcity, currency immersion, and unemployment. The economic collapse caused by war and sanctions has been exacerbated by Covide and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon, his banking life.

“I don’t know how to explain the dire situation right now,” said a 22-year-old student from the coastal city of Lattakia, who lives mostly in Alatti, who spends about $ 10 a week on tutoring and earns the income of a German brother. “May God help those who have no one to send money from outside,” he added. He did not want to publish his name for fear of revenge.

The Alawis, a historically marginalized sect that accounts for only 15% of Syria’s 17 million population, have long been considered the basis of royal loyalties in a Sunni-majority country.

Government forces are stationed in the coastal town of Salma after rebel fighters recovered in 2016 © Youseef Karwashan / AFP via Getty Images

Since Bashar’s father, Hafez, took power in a coup d’état aided by Alawi army officers in 1963, Assad has had disproportionate security and intelligence services with Alawi. As the country’s mercantile bourgeoisie was Sunni and Christian, Alawi became the main source of labor gains.

When Assad opened up the Syrian economy, after decades of his father Hafez’s isolating economic policies, “there was a kind of improvement in the overall standard of living, especially for state workers and Alawites,” said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a member of the Newlines Institute.

It is not surprising then that the majority of Alawi’s Lattakia and Tartous coastal areas did not rise up against Assad in 2011 and, as a result, saved themselves from the worst violence of the war. Being a religious minority, it began with democratic protests but was heavily feared by the Islamist forces who overcame the revolution, as non-Orthodox Muslim alawis are considered heretics.

“They left us as revolutionaries in the shadow of this black flag,” said a 70-year-old writer from the Alawi family, citing the symbol of Isis and other extremist Islamists.

The economy, rather than sectarian loyalty, was behind the alignment of the Alawi community with Assads, said Alex Simon, Syrian director of research firm Synaps in Beirut. “State. . . it became the main vehicle, if not for economic mobility, for habitability, ”Alawi said.

But those ties are tightening now. Posts on the Facebook pages of Alawi-majority neighborhoods provide a window into local complaints – from running electricity for a few hours a day and severe fuel shortages to irresponsible officialdom unless the service fails to cope.

As inflation rises, as the Syrian currency fell around $ 50 SYP before 2011, now hovering around SYP 3,500 after a recent sharp devaluation, the salaries of soldiers and government workers are worth a fraction of what they once were. “It simply came to our notice then[ . . . ]conversations about the constant humiliation of life, ”as happened under Hafez’s Ba’ath socialist party, Tsurkov said.

Hardly anyone dares to publicly punish the president, many feel abandoned by Assad.

“The regime hardly deals with it [economic problems]”, Said a 38-year-old translator and volunteer with Lattakia’s cultural initiatives.

“The state has become a collection machine, especially in the last two years. Taxes and fines have become hysterical because the government is failing.” While some “support the regime… Out of ignorance and fear,” the volunteer believed the economic situation weakened the faith: “People have lost their religion.”

Yet state repression supports the Alawi regime. “Occasionally, the bodies of tortured detainees are sent to their families,” the writer said. “The generation that stayed in Syria saw fear and oppression. They couldn’t lift it. The security is very tight.”

Syrians “have been reduced [their] a large majority to destitution and suffering, “said UN Syrian diplomat Geir Pederson. More than 60 percent of the population is unable to get enough food, according to the UN food agency, and 13 million people are helped to survive.

Although Alawi and other Syrians are suffering, Tsurkov said it is unlikely to return to major protests: “The regime has shown the Syrians that they will surrender, that they will comply … everyone knows this is unbearable, but no one is doing anything.”

Although violence in Syria could be slowed down, there is no daily fear. “I saw a child [lying] next to the trash can. I thought he was dead and tried to move, but it happened that he was alive, ”said the writer, who lives near Damascus.

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