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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Opinion | Assad: Master of ethnic cleansing in the 21st century

A scene from the ethnically-cleansed city of Douma, in the countryside of Damascus. Credit: AFP

Some non-Syrians may be wondering, after watching the videos recently leaked showing field executions by Assad’s army, about the cause of this madness. What is the interest of the Assad regime in these massacres which are undoubtedly sectarian in nature and what are the reasons that this criminal regime chooses to project its already ugly image with more bloody massacres?

Hafez Assad, who came to power under the umbrella of the secular Ba’athist socialist party, chose to rebuild the structure of the Syrian state in a purely sectarian way.

Eva J. Koulouriotis

To answer this question, we must look back at the events in Syria since Hafez Assad, father of Bashar, came to power in 1970. He was the first non-Sunni president in Syria.

As the Sunnis make up the vast majority of the Syrian population, Hafez Assad, who came to power under the umbrella of the secular Ba’athist socialist party, has chosen to rebuild the structure of the Syrian state in a purely sectarian way. Although this restructuring runs counter to the basics of the ruling party, this step was for him and his regime the only solution to keep him in power for as long as possible.

Observers of the structure of the army, its leaders and officers, and then the security services and their leadership notice explicit modifications in the sectarian nature of these agencies. Over time, the number of senior Sunni officers in the army began to decrease more and more at the expense of minorities, while the regime increasingly encouraged the selection of Alawites to recruit with clear facilitations for them to assume more influential positions.

Most of the security branches in Syria are now overwhelmingly led by Alawite officers, while officers from the same sect and other minorities constitute more than 80% of the highest-ranking officers in the Assad army. This sectarian structure was caused by fear of the majority’s claim and movement for its right to rule. Hafez Assad was essentially preparing for the inevitability of a revolution in Syria.

With the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, sectarianism was the regime’s ideal tool to push Alawites and other minorities such as Christians and Ishmaelites to support and defend it, using the media machine that demonized the revolution, presenting it as a Sunni uprising that sought revenge against the minorities in general and not only the Alawites. Assad engaged sectarian ideological groups from the army, security and shabiha (thugs) to carry out massacres and ethnic cleansing in various parts of Syria, such as al-Bayda massacre in Baniyas, the Hula massacre in Homs and many others.

The purpose of committing these massacres and even recording them by the assassins was to push the Sunnis of Syria and those who took part in the revolution to revenge and to turn this popular and just movement for freedom and democracy into the ideology of extremism, in addition to the release by the regime of prisoners with extremist ideas.

…the Syrian army and security services turned into gangs of murderers and sectarian crime.

Eva J. Koulouriotis

However, this sectarian policy of the regime over time began to expand more and more within the army and security until it became widespread, so that the entry of Assad’s army into any Sunni area and its control inevitably leads to ethnic cleansing massacres even by low-ranking officers, and the Syrian army and security services turned into gangs of murderers and sectarian crime. Even anyone who opposes or expresses dissatisfaction within them, whether by Sunnis or even minorities, will either be liquidated or arrested.

Speaking of detention, we cannot fail to mention another tool of the Assad regime. It is what its followers call the “taming” of the Syrian people. The arbitrary arrest and forced disappearance were not a product of the Syrian revolution. Rather, it is at the top of the agenda of this regime and one of its basic tactics for survival.

Many survivors of Palmyra Prison have explained in detail the brutality of this regime. Fear of arrest and torture during detention may be a more effective way of silencing the mouths under the state of horrible methods in detention centres that make a bullet in the head a mercy from severe pain.

In fact, what we know about war crimes and genocidal massacres and purges committed by Assad’s militias and their Russian, Iranian and Afghan supporters is just a drop in the ocean of pain

Eva J. Koulouriotis

When the Syrians broke the barrier of fear in March 2011, the Syrian regime had to raise its level of insanity to the maximum. It increased the torture of the detainees, but as their numbers increased and the cells filled, it was forced to kill them faster, as we saw in the al-Tadamun massacre.

In fact, what we know about war crimes and genocidal massacres and purges committed by Assad’s militias and their Russian, Iranian and Afghan supporters is just a drop in the ocean of pain, killings and holocausts that did not reach the general public and were not recorded by the cameras of the victims or the cameras of the criminals who boast of their criminality.

In view of the above, there is this most crucial and logical question that remains valid and unanswered to this day: Why did the world, led by Washington in 2014, move with its air forces and armies to confront ISIS under the slogan of preventing it from the crimes of ethnic cleansing of the Yazidis in Iraq, while it closed its eyes to a cascade of blood from the Assad regime, the master of 21st century ethnic cleansing?

Eva J. Koulouriotis
Eva J. Koulouriotis
Eva J. Koulouriotis is a political analyst specialising in the Middle East. She is a regular columnist and commentator on various international and Greek outlets such as Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al-Sharq Qatar, Annahar, Orient News, Arab News, Huffington Post Greece, the Greek weekly Paraskinio, RT, among others.

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