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Inside Syria

Syria's minorities: Caught in the middle?

We look at the problems facing the country's religious minorities as they struggle for survival and acceptance.

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2013 13:10
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The civil war in Syria still shows no signs of easing and fighting remains as fierce as ever. Neither the opposition nor the government is strong enough to tip the balance and end the conflict that has gone on for more than two years and killed at least 100,000 people.

I think it is important to say that there is a tendency to see this conflict very much in religious terms now, but at its base it was a popular uprising against an oppressive regime.

Mark Lattimer, Minority Rights Group International

The uprising in Syria began with peaceful mass protests for diversity and democracy during the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, but it turned into a civil war, with sectarian overtones and minorities caught in the middle of the brutality.

Syria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, and the ethnic and religious groups will need to bridge the deep divisions between them to prevent even greater sectarian violence if the government of President Bashar al-Assad falls.

Sunni Arabs make up 64 percent of Syria's population, while Sunni Kurds make up 10 percent. Alawites, a part of Shia Islam to which the Assad family belong, represent roughly 13 percent of Syria's 22 million people; 10 percent of the population is Christian and three percent is Druze.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch issued a report making new allegations of atrocities accusing rebel fighters in Latakia of killing almost 200 civilians in August.

It says at least five rebel groups with links to al-Qaeda are responsible for planning, funding and carrying out those attacks in Latakia on August 4. Human Rights Watch says the killings amount to war crimes.

It reported that 43 of those killed were women, children and the elderly.

And it is calling on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, so that the people responsible on both sides can be held accountable.

What does the future hold for Syria's religious minorities?

Inside Syria, with presenter Veronica Pedrosa, discusses the religious climate in Syria with guests: Anas al-Abdah, a member of the Syrian National Coalition; Mark Lattimer, an executive director of Minority Rights Group International; and Haytham Sbahi, a Syrian political activist.

"I think the biggest threat to minorities in Syria and in general in any country in the world is dictatorship and tyranny - simply because it destroys the social, political and economic ties and relationships that connect the components of society together. We have seen this in many other countries and Syria is not an exception."

Anas al-Abdah, a member of the Syrian National Coalition

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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