Syria and sectarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/17700/all cached version 20/01/2018 12:33:19 en Infographic: understanding sectarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/craig-browne/infographic-understanding-sectarianism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A very accessible introduction to how we should grasp and portray sect and sectarianism in Syria and the Middle East.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="piktowrapper-embed" pikto-uid="4241203-understanding-sectarianism" > <div class="pikto-canvas-wrap"> <div class="pikto-canvas"></div> </div> </div> <script> (function(d){ var js, id="pikto-embed-js", ref=d.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) { return;} js=d.createElement("script"); js.id=id; js.async=true; js.src="http://magic.piktochart.com/assets/embedding/embed.js"; ref.parentNode.insertBefore(js, ref); }(document)); </script> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">What is sectarianism in the Middle East? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/assad%27s-secular-sectarianism">Assad&#039;s secular sectarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/tahir-zaman/right-to-neighbourhood-way-out-of-sectarian-quagmire">The right to neighbourhood: way out of a sectarian quagmire</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism sectarianism Violent transitions Looking inside the uprising Craig Browne Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:29:15 +0000 Craig Browne 90089 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Assad's secular sectarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/assad%27s-secular-sectarianism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A historic overview of the manipulation of sect and religion by a Syrian elite only concerned with survival.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/C4.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/C4.gif" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The manipulation of sectarianism was one of the methods used by the Syrian regime to preserve its control over the decades. The interdiction against sectarian discourses, under the guise of nationalism and secularism, was but a cover for the authoritarian and sectarian practices of its security establishment.</p> <p>The Syrian regime did not invent sectarianism in Syria. Sectarian discourses were always part of the national political climate in Syria’s modern history. This can be explained by the fact that since the early formation of the Syrian republic (1920-1946) the country never had a truly nationalist authority, nor did it have specific national policies that aimed to dilute sectarian, religious, ethnic and other sub-national rivalries in favour of an encompassing Syrian nationalism. This inevitably contributed to the creation of a state of latent, or hidden, sectarianism. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the leftist and secular political elite (1950-70s) did not consider sectarianism a major issue worthy of public discussion. On the contrary, they actively ignored it in the false belief that it would dissipate on its own.</p><p><span>This state of 'hidden sectarianism' is terribly problematic. Firstly, it is not a clear phenomenon that can be studied and analysed, because everyone is simply loathe to discuss it, or even to acknowledge its existence, in public; nor is it a passing phase into a more advanced national state. This ambiguity was fertile ground for the Baathist regime to successfully use sectarianism, along with other methods, to reinforce its rule for many decades.</span></p><h2>The elephant in the room</h2> <p>Under Baath rule, discourses and discussions on sectarianism, regardless of their shape or content, were completely banned on national media and in the public sphere. Concurrently, however, positions within the ruling class and the armed forces were divided informally between different sects. For example, the prime minister was chosen, historically, from the Sunni elite, while Alawites enjoyed four different cabinet posts, most important of which is the ministry of information; other groups, like Christians and Druze, also had their assigned cabinets. Within the army, leading positions in brigades and divisions were assigned through an unwritten but well known formula—to Syrians at least: if the leader is Sunni, it means that the deputy must be Alawite, while a third leading position is reserved for other groups like Christians or Druze. The only exception to this formula was in the security forces, where Alawites always enjoyed a comfortable majority both in numbers and in leadership positions.</p> <p>This unspoken division of roles made sectarianism a presence that was constantly felt, while the prohibition of any discussion of sectarianism was absolute. The accusation of 'causing sectarian division' was laid down against all kinds of political opposition groups and was used in the prosecution and imprisonment of large numbers of individuals; thus facilitating the regime’s monopoly over the issue. People had to find different ways to navigate around this deadly elephant in the room.</p> <p>This control was punctuated further by the intentional policies implemented by the security establishment in Syria to separate people based on sect, religioun and ethnic criteria. This is illustrated by the encouragement given to segregated areas like the city of Baniyas, which is divided into an Alawite section and a Sunni one; or the town of Qutayfah, where the Army officers’ neighborhood (which is mostly Alawite) is separated by a fence from the majority-Sunni town. This geographical separation can be seen in many other areas in Damascus like Jaramana (Christian/Druze), Mazzeh 86 (Alawite), Harasta (Sunni). These areas were not completely homogeneous, but they were established in the Syrian consciousness as such, and thus was established a social state of “sectarian neighbourly” relations according to the thinker Yassin al-Hafez. This “sectarian formation of society” allowed the regime the “exclusive role of managing interactions between the groups and minimised all other independent interactions”, according to the writer, Yassin al-Haj Saleh. Even if, as some might argue, these social relations were already inherent in Syrian society, rather than actively promoted by the regime, the responsibility remains with the ruling class in not implementing any integration policies to counter this trend.</p><h2>The brotherhood boost</h2> <p>The political monopoly over sectarianism tightened &nbsp;after the Hama uprising against the regime in 1982. With the Muslim Brotherhood appointing themselves as representatives of Sunnis in Syria and throughout the region, while referring to the Assad regime as “the Alawite regime”, they provided the regime with the perfect alibi. From then on, the regime would crush any discussion on sectarianism with secular slogans, and would present itself as the only guarantor for the protection of minorities, especially Alawites. This phase is recounted in the book,&nbsp;<em>Politique et minorités au Proche-Orient: Les raisons d'une explosion</em>, by Annie and Laurent Chabry:</p> <blockquote><p>“In August 1980, Hafez al-Assad chose to celebrate Ramadan in Qardaha, instead of in the Damascus Umayyad mosque, which was what tradition demanded. He surrounded himself with the most prominent leaders from the Alawite community and requested their help in handling the crisis.”</p></blockquote> <p>This sectarian shift can be appreciated in the testimony of the Syrian poet Faraj Bayrakdar, at the time a central committee member of the underground Communist Action Party, who was imprisoned several times by the Assad regime:</p> <blockquote><p>“The first time I was imprisoned, in 1978, there were no sectarian insults. When I was arrested again, in 1987, sectarian insults against prisoners were the norm.”</p></blockquote> <p>The strategy of manipulating sectarianism can be seen in countless examples of Syria’s recent past. In 2006, writer Michel Kilo was imprisoned for an article entitled 'Syrian obituaries', where he wrote:</p> <blockquote><p>“Although sects underly Syrian society, no one dares talk about them. Not because they ignore their existence, but out of fear of the authorities, which claim to have neutralized all sectarian and ideological differences and treat any talk on these issues as treason.”</p></blockquote> <p>Similarly, political dissident Riad Seif was arrested during the period known as the Damascus Spring for stating that "the Syrian people are characterized by their diverse ethnic and religious universe. Syria is the cradle of monotheistic religions and ancient civilizations.”</p> <p>According to many witness testimonies, it became a common strategy from the 1980's onwards, for security forces to deck walls with sectarian slogans such as, “We want to overthrow the Alawite regime” a night before they stormed a neighbourhood to arrest members of the Communist Action Party or other political groups from their hometowns.</p> <p>This regime’s strategy pursued three goals:</p><ol><li><span>To present itself as the only guarantor against sectarianism</span></li><li><span>To strengthen its ties with the country’s minorities</span></li><li><span>To tarnish the reputation of dissidents and opposition groups</span></li></ol><p><span>The aforementioned examples give an overview of the instrumentalisation of sectarianism by the Syrian regime. The evidence suggests that the regime was never a sectarian authority, as that would entail focusing all efforts on elevating the conditions of a particular sect, as is the case in the Saudi and the Iranian regimes. In Syria’s case, sectarianism was but one card out of many used to perpetuate the ruling elite's dominant position.</span></p><p>The actions and policies of any state, however, will transform society politically, economically and socially. In Syria, it led to the birth of what I call “hidden sectarianism”, where sectarian identities are neither discarded for a higher national identity, nor are they allowed to present themselves and be discussed openly. This national identity crisis was made clear a few months after the uprising, partly because the regime decided to put its weight behind the sectarian narrative, and partly because the opposition, in an ultimately misguided move, attempted to play the sectarian card as a weapon against the regime.</p><p> <a name="logo"></a></p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">What is sectarianism in the Middle East? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salamah-kileh-victorios-shams/is-syrian-regime-sectarian">Is the Syrian regime sectarian? Sectarianism, part two</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/tahir-zaman/right-to-neighbourhood-way-out-of-sectarian-quagmire">The right to neighbourhood: way out of a sectarian quagmire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism Identity repression Through Syrian eyes Looking inside the uprising Mohammad Dibo Thu, 27 Nov 2014 21:18:10 +0000 Mohammad Dibo 88258 at https://www.opendemocracy.net هل النظام السوري طائفي؟ حوار مع سلامة كيلة وفكتريوس شمس-- الجزء الثاني https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams-mohammad-dibo/%D9%87%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%9F-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%83%D9%8A <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="direction: rtl;"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">نواصل في هذا الجزء من حوارنا مع المفكر&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">الماركسي</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;سلامة كيلة,</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">الذي يجاوب سؤال هذه الحلقة بتحليله بأن النظام السوري ليس طائفيا, ومع الكاتب فكتريوس شمس, الذي&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;يصرّ</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;على أنه "نظام طائفي في العمق"</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. </span><em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/salamah-kileh-victorios-shams/is-syrian-regime-sectarian">In English</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>محمد ديبو: سلامة كيلة، هل يمكننا اعتبار نظام الأسد، أو العلويين كمجموعة، طائفيين؟</strong></p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>سلامة كيلة:</strong>&nbsp;تناول الأسباب التي تجعل دكتاتور يختار الفئة التي يعتمد عليها في الحكم يفترض أن ينطلق من فهم سسيولوجي بالأساس، وليس من منظور طائفي. الفارق هنا يكمن في أنّ كل منظور ديني أو طائفي ينطلق من الشكل في تحديد طبيعة الآخر، لهذا حين يتناول نظام معين يركّز على طائفة الرئيس والفئة التي تحيط به، ويحكم على السلطة من خلال ذلك، وبهذا تكون السلطة طائفية لأنّ منظوره طائفياً وليس لأنها كذلك في الواقع. السؤال هو ما هي الأسس التي تجعل الدكتاتور يختار معاونيه، وبالتالي لماذا يحيط ذاته بأفراد من محيطه المناطقي؟</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">أولاً حافظ الأسد كان جزءاً من حزب قومي، وكان ذلك الوعي هو الذي يحكمه قبل الوصول إلى السلطة، وبهذا لا يمكن أن نقول بأنه كان طائفياً، إلا إذا انطلقنا من مفاهيم أصولية إسلامية تتحدث عن “الباطنية” (أي أنه كان يضمر غير ما يعلن)، وهذا أمر خرافي. وثانياً أن الصراع في حزب البعث كان بين “علويين” (أي صلاح جديد وحافظ الأسد). وثالثاً أن هذا الصراع قسم السلطة إلى فئات مع كل منهما، حتى على المستوى العلوي، وظهر ذلك في وقوف الضباط العلويين من منطقة طرطوس مع صلاح جديد ومن جبلة مع حافظ الأسد. ورابعاً كانت قوة مصطفى طلاس أو عبدالحليم خدام في زمن حافظ الأسد موازية لقوة علي دوبا وعلي حيدر وكل النخبة “العلوية” في السلطة.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">هنا يجب أن ندخل التحليل السسيولوجي لكي نفهم الآليات التي يشكّل فيها دكتاتور ريفي سلطته. وسنلاحظ هنا أن كل الدكتاتوريين من هذا النمط كانوا يعتمدون على أفراد من المنطقة التي ينتمون إليها، أي من البيئة التي نشؤوا فيها.&nbsp; ولا شك في أنّ البيئة الريفية تؤسس لترابط يقوم على أساس المنطقة بالأساس، قبل أي شيء آخر. هذا هو “الوعي الريفي” الذي يربط الثقة بالترابط المناطقي. وهذا أمر طبيعي كان الريف فيه منعزلاً، وكما قال إنجلز مرة بأن الفلاح يرى أن قريته هي العالم، هي كل العالم. وهو أمر يجعله في خشية من العالم فيبقى محافظاً على الترابط المناطقي أينّما حل. وبالتالي يصبح ابن الحي أو القرية هو مصدر الثقة الذي يمكن الاعتماد عليه. لهذا يعتمد الدكتاتور على هؤلاء القادمين من بيئته.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">سنلاحظ بأن الصراعات في الجيش قبل استلام حافظ الأسد السلطة تمحورت حول “كتل مناطقية”. لهذا جرت تصفية الضباط المدينيين بعد 8آذار، ثم تصفية ضباط مدينيين ومن ريف دمشق وحماة مع إبعاد الناصريين في تموز سنة 1963، ثم الضباط الدروز بعد انقلاب سليم حاطوم سنة 1967، ومن ثم تفكك الضباط العلويين بين صلاح جديد وحافظ الأسد، الذي اعتمد على الانقسام بين ضباط طرطوس وضباط جبلة. وهو الوضع الذي كرّس سيطرة أكبر للضباط العلويين، خصوصاً وأنّ عددهم كان أكبر في الجيش نتيجة فقر المنطقة، الذي كان يجعل الجيش ملجأ سواء فيما يتعلق بالضباط أو في الجنود.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">على ضوء كل ذلك يكون الاعتماد على ضباط علويين أمراً يتعلق بالثقة من منظور مناطقي وليس طائفياً، رغم أن الصراع الطائفي الذي خاضته جماعة الإخوان المسلمين والطليعة المقاتلة نهاية سبعينات وبداية ثمانينات القرن العشرين، عزَّز من ميل ما طائفي، تبلور في سرايا الدفاع بزعامة رفعت الأسد، لكن الحالة أُنهيت بعد الخلاف الذي حدث على ضوء مرض حافظ الأسد سنة 1984. وكذلك قمعت جمعية المرتضى التي شكلها جميل الأسد على أساس طائفي. لكن ولا شك نشأ شعور ما طائفي في بنى السلطة، لكنه لم يهيمن، بل جرى استغلاله فيما بعد من قبل السلطة ذاتها.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">أما حول العلويين ولماذا هم غير طائفيين رغم وقوفهم خلف السلطة، فلأن الأمر لا يتعلّق بمعتقدات وحدتهم مع السلطة، ولم يكونوا مع السلطة قبل الثورة، على العكس من ذلك عانوا من الشبيحة ومن السيطرة على أراضيهم ومن الفقر وغياب الخدمات والتهميش، بحيث كان الساحل من أفقر مناطق سورية. لكن ما جرى سنوات 1980/ 1982 من وحشية ضد حماة أُلصق بالعلويين، وبالتالي عمّمت السلطة الشعور بأنّ الآخر يستهدفهم نتيجة ما جرى. وهو الأمر الذي خلق حالة من الخوف من أنّ التغيير سوف يأتي بالإسلاميين إلى السلطة، ومن ثم سينتقمون منهم هم. وعموماً فإنّ مجمل الأقليات الدينية والطائفية تخوّفت من وصول بديل أصولي إسلامي كما تخوّف العلويون، واندمج بعضها بالسلطة كذلك، مثل قطاع كبير من المسيحيين. ولا شك في أنّ السلطة لعبت من اللحظة الأولى على هذا الأمر، وساعدتها بعض أطراف المعارضة، مثل الإخوان المسلمين، والمندسين على المعارضة وبعض المعارضين الطائفيين، وكذلك بعض الدول الإقليمية مثل السعودية، والإعلام الفضائي عموماً.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">العلويون لا يعرفون معتقداتهم في الغالب، وبالتالي ليس لديهم “عقيدة” يفرضونها على المجتمع، وفقرهم هو الذي دفعهم بأعداد كبيرة إلى الجيش منذ الاحتلال الفرنسي. ومن ثم لم تقدّم السلطة لهم ما يحسّن وضعهم لكي يتمسّكوا بها. لكن الثقافة العامة منذ زمن باتت تربط النظام بالعلويين، بما في ذلك مجازر حماة، رغم أن النسبة الأعلى من المعتقلين السياسيين كانت من الساحل. في هذه الوضعية لماذا يلتفون حول السلطة؟ هل هناك غير الخوف من الربط الذي حصل بينهم وبين السلطة ما يجعلهم يخافون من التغيير،&nbsp; ولمصلحة قوى تنظر إليهم كسلطة، والقوى التي تعتبر أساسية في المعارضة تنظر إليهم بمنظور طائفي؟ بالتالي إن وقوفهم خلف السلطة ليس نابعاً من اعتبارات طائفية كون لا معتقدات طائفية تجمعهم بالسلطة، بل كون الآخر اعتبر أنهم السلطة، واعتبر أن السلطة هي سلطة طائفة وقائمة على أسس طائفية.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">إن موجة انتشار الأصولية الإسلامية وتعميم الأصولية، والتركيز على أحقية سلطة الإسلاميين، وما جرى في العراق من صراع طائفي، فرض أن ينتشر الخوف لدى قطاعات مجتمعية، من الأقليات ومن بعض “الأغلبية”. وهذا الجو هو الذي جعل النقطة المركزية في إستراتيجية السلطة هي كيف تضخم هذا “البعبع”، وكيف تُظهر الثورة كحراك أصولي يهدف إلى السيطرة على السلطة (والانتقام من العلويين). ولقد نجحت في ذلك ليس بفعل طائفية العلويين بل بفعل أصولية وسلفية بعض أطراف المعارضة التي ظهرت كقيادة للثورة من خلال تأثير الإعلام الخليجي، وحتى الغربي. وهو الأمر الذي أربك العلويين في المرحلة الأولى وجعلهم يترددون في الانخراط في الثورة، ومن ثم مع تصاعد تشوّه الثورة دفعهم للتماسك خلف السلطة، أو للسير بما تريد دون سؤال.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>محمد ديبو: فيكتوريوس شمس، تقول في جدالك مع المفكر سلامة كيلة أن النظام السوري هو نظام طائفي في العمق، هل لك أن تبيّن لنا هذا الأمر، بمعنى متى نقول عن نظام ما أنه طائفي وليس سلطوي فحسب؟</strong></p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>فكتريوس شمس:</strong>&nbsp;من حيث المبدأ، كل نظام، هو نظام سلطوي. النظام الرأسمالي هو نظام حكم الطبقات الأكثر ثراء، أي نظام تسلّطها على من هم دونها، والعكس بالنسبة للنظام الإشتراكي. السلطوية شرط من شروط وجود السلطة (النظام). أمّا عن مسألة الفصل بين أن يكون النظام “طائفي وليس سلطوي” فهو أمر مستحيل نظرياً، لأن الطائفية هي “النظام الذي يؤمّن للطبقات المسيطرة ديمومة سيطرتها في نمط الإنتاج الكولونيالي”، انتفاء الطائفية، يعني انتفاء سلطة الطبقات المسيطرة في بلدان كولونيالية متعدّدة الطوائف. بهذا يكون من المستحيل في نمط الإنتاج الكولونيالي فصل السلطوية عن الطائفية، فوجود هذه شرط لتلك، والعكس صحيح.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">أما عن طائفية النظام السوري، فيجب التمييز بين ممارسات طائفية تمارسها السلطة التي تستحكم فيها أقلية طائفية ما، كما هو حاصل في سوريا، وبين نظام طائفي مُمأسس كما هو حاصل في لبنان.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">في الحالة الأولى تبدو الممارسات جزء من سيرورة طويلة ومعقّدة ستؤدّي بالضرورة إلى تطييف المجتمع بعامّة وهو ما جاءت الحرب لتفضحه. بينما في الثانية، لا تستطيع طائفة أن تستأثر وحدها بالسلطة بشكل مطلق، فـ “الشراكة” والمحاصصة المقوّننة هي الأساس.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">بمعنى، أن الطائفية في سوريا لم تُكرّس بعد بنصوص دستورية على غرار النموذج اللبناني. لكن ممارسات النظام السوري تعبّر عن السير سريعاً بهذا الإتّجاه، كالإستئثار والسيطرة الواضحين على المفاصل الأمنية والمالية في البلاد. مفيد هنا العودة لكتاب عزمي بشارة “سورية: درب الآلام نحو الحرية.. محاولة في التاريخ الراهن”، إذ يقول مثلاً في الصفحة (318) وبفقرة تحت عنوان: “مسارب الطائفية خلال الثورة”: “إن مقولة “الفتنة الطائفية”، وإن لم تفتقر إلى روافد ومغذيات مجتمعية، هي جزء من خطاب سياسي استحضره النظام في الأزمات التي تواجهه، ولم يتردّد الرئيس بشار الأسد في خطاب 30 آذار/ مارس 2011 في وصم الحركة الإحتجاجية بمصطلحات “الفتنة الطائفية” التي تهدف إلى ضرب الاستقرار وإشاعة الفوضى. وبدا واضحاً في خطابه أن النظام معني بالتخويف من فتنة طائفية إلى درجة الاستفزاز كي يثبت أن الدولة السلطوية وحدها تحافظ على وحدة المجتمع والدولة في سوريا، وأن الاستجابة للمطالب الديمقراطية سوف تؤدّي إلى الفتنة والانقسام. لكننا لا نستثني احتمال أن النظام، ونتيجة معرفته بسياساته التي حوّلت الطائفة العلوية إلى نواة النظام الصلبة، شعر بأن الثورة هي ردّة فعل على مركزة الثروة والسلطة، وكان واعياً أنّها لا بد من أن تحمل شحنات طائفية ضده أو حتى ضد الطائفة العلوية”.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">هنا لا بد من توضيح مسألة مهمّة (إذا اعتبرنا أنّ الصراع كما يريده النظام، هو صراع سنّي – علوي)، وهي أن هنالك علويون مع الثورة، وسُنّة مع النظام. لكن نسبهم في الجهتين ضئيلة ولا يُعتد بها لتعميمها، أوالإستشهاد بها كدليل على لا طائفية النظام.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">باختصار كلّي نقول: ميّز النظام بين مواطن عادي، ومواطن له امتيازات من طائفة أخرى طوال فترة حكمه، وهذه واحدة من أسباب الاحتقان الشعبي الذي أدّى لما وصلت إليه حال البلاد اليوم. مازالت الأحداث تتصاعد وتتفاعل ولم تأخذ شكلها النهائي بعد، هذا ما دعانا للقول أنّه: “نظام طائفي في العمق”، والفكرة لم تتغيّر بعد.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>محمد ديبو: فيكتوريوس، في كتابات سابقة وصفت عمليات تغيير قسرية في التوزع البشري في سوريا كدليل على طائفية النظام.كيف تقرأ وجود نسبة كبيرة من النازحين السنة في طرطوس واللاذقية؟ وبنفس الوقت ماذا عن المكونات السنية الأخرى التي تقف إلى جانب النظام؟</strong></p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;"><strong>فكتريوس شمس:</strong>&nbsp;التهجير القسري الذي يحصل في بعض المدن كحمص وبعض المناطق الحدودية مع لبنان، يبدو وكأنّه تحسّباً لأي سيناريو تقسيم على أساس طائفي في المنطقة، لهذا يعمل النظام على تغيير ديموغرافية بعض المناطق في ظل حديث عن عمليات توطين وتجنيس لكتل بشرية ذات لون طائفي واحد قادمة من سوريا ومن خارجها. هذا يعني أن النظام يعمل على السيطرة السياسية على هذه المناطق من خلال إيجاد أغلبية من لون طائفي واحد فيها. الأساس هنا هو الهيمنة السياسية، بمعنى أنّها لن تكون مناطق صافية 100% قد يبدو هذا الصفاء أمراً مستحيلاً، فحتى “اسرائيل” ورغم كل حروبها على الشعب الفلسطيني لم تستطع اقتلاع الفلسطينيين بشكل مطلق من أراضيهم، وهذا ينطبق على النظام السوري وغيره كما حصل في لبنان طوال الحرب الأهلية أيضاً. هنا يجب أن نفصل بين لجوء النازحين الذين لا يبتغون أكثر من الحفاظ على حياتهم بعد تدمير مناطقهم وانعدام الأمن فيها، أي أنّهم لا يطمحون للسيطرة السياسية على المناطق التي نزحوا إليها. وبين احتلال النظام لمناطق أخرى يطمح لأن تكون جزء من كانتون طائفي في المستقبل. عدا عن ذلك، فإن النظام مازال يمارس مهامه في الدولة، وعليه، يطرح السؤال نفسه تلقائياً: ماذا قدّمت الدولة لمن نزحوا إلى المدن الساحلية؟، وهي بالمناسبة مدن مختلطة تاريخياً، بعكس أرياف هذه المدن الذي يعتبر جزء كبير منها مسكون من طوائف بعينها.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">أمّا بالنسبة للإسلام، فكل بحسب مصالحه وموقعه الطبقي. الإسلام لا يُشبه بعضه. إسلام “الإخوان المسلمين” شيء، وإسلام النظام شيء آخر تماماً. إسلام “الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام – داعش”، أو “جبهة النصرة” ليس كإسلام المتصوفة على اختلاف تياراتهم. “حركة حماس” كانت قريبة جدّاً من النظام السوري، لكنها ابتعدت عنه بعد الثورة عليه عندما طالبها بمساعدته في قمع الإحتجاجات. “القبيسيات” لهُنّ مؤسّسات تجارية ومعاهد ومدارس ومؤسّسات تربوية تلقى كل التسهيل والدعم من النظام، أي أن المصالح متبادلة. النظام بحاجة لأغطية دينية (كديكور) لإثبات عدم طائفيته مع أنّه يدّعي العلمانية، و “القبيسيات” مستعدّات للعب دور الغطاء تماماً كما إسلام النظام الممثّل بمؤسّسات الإفتاء، والمعاهد الشرعية التابعة له.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">أمّا “الإسلام الشامي” فهو إسلام البرجوازية المستفيدة من تحالفها مع النظام (تحالف العسكر والمال)، هؤلاء قلّة، لكنهم يملكون الكثير، وقد كانوا جزءاً من عملية سرقة مقدّرات الشعب السوري. يُشار هنا إلى أن عدد كبير منهم نقل أعماله من دمشق لدول أخرى قبل الثورة بكثير بسبب محاولات إجبارهم على الشراكة مع رجال أمن.</p><p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">من كل ما سبق أردنا القول أن المسالة بالنسبة للبرجوازية الشامية أو غيرها ليست مسألة قناعات بطائفية النظام أو لا طائفيته، بل مسألة مصالح متبادلة في تثبيت سلطة النظام من جهة، وحفاظ هؤلاء على مصالحهم وأموالهم، والطائفية ليست إلا نمط حكم طبقي، إن أمّنت لهم مصالحهم فلماذا يرفضونها. أي أن “إسلام البرجوازية الشامية” لا يعنيه شكل الحكم؛ إلا بالقدر الذي يضمن له استمرار عملية مراكمته للأموال.</p> <a name="logo"></a><p style="background-color: #ededed; padding: 25px; border: 1px dotted #003399;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img style="float: right; border: 3px solid #fff; margin: 0px 10px 10px 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /><br /></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams-mohammad-dibo/%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%87%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%A9%D8%9F-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%88-%D9%81%D9%83%D8%AA">ما هي الطائفية؟ حوار مع سلامة كيلة و فكتوريوس شمس</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria-arabic">الطائفية في سوريا: من ألفها إلى يائها</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hamzeh-moustafa/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%A8%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%A3%D9%85-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B9-%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%AB%D8%9F">الشبكات الاجتماعية في سورية: ناقل تعبيري أم صانع حدث؟</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism Arabic language Mohammad Dibo Victorios Shams Salameh Kaileh Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:05:15 +0000 Salameh Kaileh, Victorios Shams and Mohammad Dibo 87734 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is the Syrian regime sectarian? Sectarianism, part two https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/salamah-kileh-victorios-shams/is-syrian-regime-sectarian <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the second part of our conversation&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">on the state and sect in Syria</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;with prominent Marxist thinkers from the region, we explore how sectarianism and class intersect in the dark realms of the Syrian elite. See <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">part one</a>.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Mohammad Dibo: Salameh, should we consider Assad’s regime, or the Alawites as a group, sectarian?</strong></p> <p><strong>Salameh Kaileh:&nbsp;</strong><span>Any investigation into the reasons of how a dictatorship chooses the groups that support its hegemony must be approached through a sociological lens, rather than a sectarian one. The difference here is that a sectarian, or religious approach to the subject focuses on superficial markers in determining the nature of the regime; e.g. the sectarian background of the president and the surrounding ruling class. The real question should be what is the logic that lies behind the dictator’s choice of collaborators? Why might he surround himself with members of the same background?</span></p> <p>Let's be frank. Hafez al-Assad was part of a nationalist party, and that was the underlying consciousness that predated his ascendance to rule. In that sense, one cannot accuse him of being sectarian--unless one subscribes to Islamist notions of the esotericism of Alawites, which I believe is bigoted nonsense. The main struggle inside the Baath party was actually between two Alawites--Salah Jadid and Hafez al-Assad. Thirdly, this struggle completely divided the ruling class at the time between the two factions, including the Alawites, whereby many Alawite officers from Tartous supported Jadid, while the officers from Jableh supported Assad. Moreover, the power vested in [Sunni] figures like Mustafa Tlass, and Abdulhalim Khaddam, under Assad, was well on a par with that of Alawites like Ali Duba or Ali Haydar.</p> <p>Viewed from a sociological perspective, we notice that such dictators depend on individuals from the same environment they themselves grew up in. The rural environment they were brought up in first and foremost establishes linkages that are regionally-based. This is “rural consciousness”, it attaches confidence to regional linkage, which is natural at a time when the countryside is so isolated. As Engels remarked, a peasant believes that his village is the world, the whole world. This isolation breeds fear of the outside world and strengthens the importance of regional links. Wherever the peasant goes, it is only his neighbours, or those connected to his village that he considers trustworthy and dependable. That is, in a nutshell, why a dictator surrounds himself with those who share his own regional background.</p> <p>Most of the power struggles in the Syrian army before Assad’s ascent were based on such 'regional factions'. Many of the urban officers were purged after the March 8 coup d’etat in 1963 (that brought the Baath party to power); many other urban officers, as well as those from Rif Dimashq and Hama, were sidelined in the purge of Nasserist loyalists in June 1963; many Druze officers (from the south of Syria) were also removed following Salim Hatoum’s failed coup in 1967; Alawite officers were also divided, as previously mentioned, along regional lines (between Tartous and Jableh) during the power struggle between Assad and Jadid.</p> <p>In that light we can see that the regime’s dependence on a core of Alawi officers is based on regional linkages and confidence rather than on sect. The sectarian insurrection led by the Muslim Brotherhood and its military wing (the Vanguard Force) in the late 1970s and early 1980s did reinforce a sectarian tendency, crystallizing in Rifaat al-Assad’s Defense Companies. But even this tendency within the elite was suppressed following the power struggle between the two brothers in 1984. Another attempt at sectarianising community at the time, the al-Murtada association founded by Jamil al-Assad, was also shut down. There is no doubt that a certain sectarian feeling seeped into the structure of the ruling class, but it did not gain any overall hegemony. It was only later taken advantage of by that same ruling class.</p><p><span>As for ordinary citizens who are Alawites, considered as a group, I do not consider them sectarian despite their significant support for the current regime. This is mainly because there are few beliefs that unify them. Ordinary Alawites were not behind the regime before the revolution: on the contrary, they suffered a great deal at the hands of regime thugs, from poverty, marginalisation, land expropriation, and an overall lack of services in their areas. It is no secret that the Syrian coast was one of the most impoverished regions in the country. The brutality of the Hama massacre of 1982 was, nevertheless, attributed to them as a whole societal component, and the regime played its part in spreading the belief that 'the other' will always seek revenge on all Alawites for that.</span></p> <p>This has created a state of fear in the collective conciousness, that any political change will bring Islamists to power who will then proceed to take their revenge on Alawites. Generally speaking, most of the other religious and confessional minorities shared the fear that Islamists are the only alternative to Assad. This has led to many of them standing by the regime, including the majority of Christians. Without a doubt, this process was encouraged by the regime from the early days of the uprising, but it was also buttressed by some factions of the opposition, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and by some regional powers, like Saudi Arabia, as well as by the mainstream media.</p> <p>Most Alawites have very little knowledge of their own religious teachings. There is a hardly a specific 'religious doctrine' for Alawites to impose on society. It is their debilitating poverty that has led them to join the army in large numbers since the days of the French mandate. And the regime offered very little by way of enhancing their overall quality of life for them to try and hold on to it. However, a general consensus has developed in the country that has identified Alawites with the Assad regime, and with the Hama massacre, despite the fact that a large proportion of political prisoners in Syria were Alawites.</p> <p>That is the reason why Alawites ended up as staunch supporters of the regime, fear from their perceived connection in the mind of 'the other' between them as a community and the regime, and the fear of the consequences of any political change. Thus, their support is not sectarian in nature so much as simply born out of fear.</p> <p>The wave of Islamic fundamentalism, the assertion of the Islamists’ right to power and the sectarian war that wrecked Iraq, entrenched this aforementioned fear in large sectors of society, in both the minorities and parts of the 'majority' as well. This very effective fear is the main reason why the Syrian regime has focused all its energy on promoting and augmenting the Islamist “bogeyman” and presenting the revolution as a fundamentalist movement with the sole aim of usurping power and taking revenge on Alawites. That this has proved a successful strategy, is not due to sectarian feelings amongst Alawites, but rather thanks to the Salafist and fundamentalist sectors of the opposition who were promoted by the mainstream media in the Gulf and even in the west. These elements confounded Alawites from the beginning and made them hesitant in joining the revolution. Over time, as these elements gained more influence within the revolution, Alawites were pushed into blind support of the regime.</p> <p><strong><span>MD:&nbsp;</span><span>Victorios, you seem to have a quite different position on this. You consider the Syrian regime deeply sectarian. So, what is the distinction between a sectarian and an authoritarian regime?</span></strong></p> <p><strong>Victorious Shams:&nbsp;</strong><span>As a matter of principle, all regimes are authoritarian. The capitalist regime is one whereby the wealthy elite has power and subjugates lesser classes to its authority; and the opposite is true in socialist regimes. Authoritarianism is a prerequisite of authority. Theoretically, it is impossible to be a sectarian regime without being authoritarian as well, because sectarianism is the system through which the ruling classes guarantees its control within a colonial mode of production. To negate the sectarian label is to negate the control of the ruling class in colonial multi-confessional states. But it is impossible, within the colonial mode of production, to separate sectarianism and authoritarianism; the former is a prerequisite for the latter and vice versa.</span></p> <p>When it comes to the Syrian regime, it is important to differentiate between sectarian practices exercised by an authority that is controlled by a minority sect, as in the Syrian case, and an institutionally sectarian state, of the type that is Lebanon.</p> <p>In the Syrian case, sectarian practices form part of a long and complex process that will necessarily lead to the sectarianisation of society at large, which we can see clearly now in the current conflict. In the latter, however, no one sectarian group can monopolise authority completely as it is based on “partnerships” and institutionalised quotas.</p> <p>This is to say, sectarianism in Syria is not yet articulated in constitutional forms. The practices of the Syrian regime, including its monopolisation of authority as well as the financial and security apparatuses in the country, are driving that process very rapidly. It is worth here quoting Azmi Bishara, the Palestinian thinker, when he says: </p><blockquote><p>“ The phrase, ‘sectarian sedition’, while it has significant societal relevance, forms a part of a political discourse invoked by the regime when faced by crises. The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, had no qualms, in his 30 March 2011 speech, about characterising the protest movement as a ‘sectarian sedition’ that aims to destroy stability and spread chaos. It was clear in his speech that the regime is very interested in spreading fear about sectarian strife, even to the point of provocation, as proof that the authoritarian state is the only form capable of preserving social and political unity in Syria, and that any concessions to democratic aspirations will lead to sedition and division. However, we cannot exclude the possibility that the regime, conscious of those of its policies that absorbed Alawites into its hard core, felt that the revolution is a reaction to the centralisation of power and wealth, and that it must be charged with sectarian feelings against him, and the Alawi sect."</p></blockquote> <p>If we look at the struggle from the point of view that the regime tries to consolidate, one shared between Sunnis and Alawites,&nbsp;<span>we must clarify an important issue. Even though there are Alawites who support the revolution, and there are Sunnis who stand by the regime, nevertheless, the percentage of each on their respective sides is minimal, and cannot be used to generalise about a community, nor as evidence that the regime is not sectarian.</span></p> <p>In short, the regime, during its time in power has differentiated between normal citizens and privileged ones from a specific sect, and this is one of the reasons for the popular frustration that brought the country to where it is today. Mreover, these events are still ongoing and escalating and have not taken their final shape.</p> <p><strong><strong>MD: Victorios, in previous writings you described forced demographic changes as proof of the sectarian nature of the regime. This is quite a strong claim, how do you defend it against the reality</strong><span>&nbsp;that a large number of refugees (more than 500,000) relocated to the coastal provinces? &nbsp;And&nbsp;</span><span>how would you explain the substantial Sunni communities that have stayed loyal to the regime?</span></strong></p> <p><strong>VS:&nbsp;</strong><span>The forced displacements happening in places like Homs and along the Lebanese borders, seem to be a precaution for a regional scenario where the state is partitioned along sectarian lines. Thus, the regime is working on changing the demographic distribution of some areas, and there are plenty of rumors about nationalisation and settling activity favouring certain sectarian groups migrating from outside Syria or from other areas from the country. This means that the regime is working towards political hegemony over these areas by establishing a sectarian majority in it. This hegemony is political at its base, thus there is no need for a 100% purified area, nor is this possible (Israel, despite its many wars against the Palestinians has been unable to completely unroot them from their land).</span></p> <p>We must differentiate clearly between the refugees who only seek to save their lives after their areas have been completely destroyed, and therefore do not aim for political control over the areas they are internally displaced to, and the areas occupied by the regime in the hope that it would become part of a future sectarian canton. Other than that, and as the regime is still responsible for the state, the question remains, what has the state offered to those who took refuge in the coastal areas [Alawite regions]?</p> <p>As for the second part of your question regarding Sunnis standing with the regime, I believe that is mainly due to class interests. Every strand of Islam is different, and thus the Islamic doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood are completely different from those of the regime, and the doctrines of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Nusra Front bear no similarity to those of Sufism. Hamas used to be very close to the Syrian regime, but it distanced itself after the revolution and after it was asked to help quell the protests. The Qubaisiyat movement has many schools and educational facilities that are supported and facilitated by the regime, and thus they have shared interests. The regime, despite its official line of secularism, is in need of multiple religious covers, as proof of its non-sectarianism, and the Qubaisiyat were ready to play that role along with other official religious institutions like the Mufti and the religious schools.</p> <p>The Damascene Sunni class is a predominantly bourgeois class that benefits greatly from the regime in an alliance of money and officers. It is still a minority, but a very wealthy one, and they are part of the process of siphoning the country’s wealth into private pockets. Nevertheless, we should note here that many have already moved their wealth from Damascus to other countries, even before the revolution, because of attempts to force them to share their business with the security establishment.</p> <p>The class interest of the beourgeouisie has no bearing on the sectarian nature of the regime. Sectarianism itself is another form of class authoritarianism, and the “Damascene and Aleppan bourgeoisie” are not too bothered about the form this authoritarianism takes, so long as their wealth increases.</p><p><span>Translated by: Yazan Badran</span></p><p><a name="logo"></a></p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">What is sectarianism in the Middle East? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams-mohammad-dibo/%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%87%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%A9%D8%9F-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%88-%D9%81%D9%83%D8%AA">ما هي الطائفية؟ حوار مع سلامة كيلة و فكتوريوس شمس</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/gilbert-achcar/syrian-army-and-its-power-pyramid">The Syrian army and its power pyramid</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kamal-alam/pax-syriana-neither-vanquished-nor-allconquering">Pax Syriana: neither vanquished, nor all-conquering</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Looking inside the uprising Victorios Shams Salameh Kaileh Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:00:09 +0000 Salameh Kaileh and Victorios Shams 87023 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ما هي الطائفية؟ حوار مع سلامة كيلة و فكتوريوس شمس https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams-mohammad-dibo/%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%87%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%A9%D8%9F-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%88-%D9%81%D9%83%D8%AA <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="direction: rtl; text-align: right;">قبل أن ندخل في تفاصيل الحالة السورية ووضع الطائفية في سوريا، لا بد من أن نحدد منهجيا وعلميا: ما هي الطائفية؟ وما هو النظام الطائفي؟ ليصار إلى مقاربة الواقع العملي على ضوء هذا التحديد النظري، ولهذا كان أسئلتنا الأولى لكل من المفكر الماركسي سلامة كيلة والكاتب فكتريوس شمس تتعلق بتحديد هذه المفاهيم منهجيا وعمليا، ليصار إلى متابعة النقاش حول الحالة السورية على ضوئها. <em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">English</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/victorious-.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/victorious-.jpg" alt="Source: Janoubia.com" title="" width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Source: Janoubia.com</span></span></span></p><p dir="rtl"><span style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">محمد ديبو: قبل أن ندخل في هذا الحوار المخصّص لمناقشة المسألة الطائفية في سوريا، هل يمكن أن توضحان لنا ما هي الطائفية؟</span></p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> سلامة كيلة:&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">الطائفة هي المجموعة البشرية التي لديها معتقدات دينية معينة تشكّلت في الماضي. كانت حينها تعبير عن تصوّر طبقي أيديولوجي لفئة مجتمعية. تشكّل هذا التصور كمعتقدات دينية بعد انهيار المجتمع وانغلاق المجموعات البشرية على ذاتها، حيث صاغت تصوراتها في معتقدات "أسطورية" (أي أسطرتها). هي أشخاص ولدوا على معتقد معيّن، ليصبح هناك تمسّك شكلي به، ربما ممارسة بعض الطقوس، أو الحفاظ على استمرارية عبر قصر الزواج على الطائفة مثلاً، أو مراسيم الموتى أو الأعياد، وفي الغالب دون مزاولة هذه المعتقدات وفقط ربما التمسك بالطقوس. لهذا لا تكون هذه المعتقدات هي وسيلة التعامل في المجتمع، حيث تسيطر عادات وتقاليد مجتمعية عامة، سواء في الريف أو في المدينة، لتبقى المعتقدات كتمييز خاص لكل دين أو طائفة، في مجتمع موّحد بالمعنى العام. وكانت هذه المعتقدات تتراجع بفعل انتشار الأفكار الحديثة والاندماج المجتمعي، وبالتالي تشكّل مجتمع على أسس جديدة.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> أعتقد بأن الطائفية هل كل انغلاق ديني أو طائفي على أساس معتقدات موروثة ضد الآخر المختلف. يعني تحويل الاختلاف إلى تناقض. ولا شك في أن الاختلاف هو نتاج تناقض قديم، لكن ذاك التناقض كان له أسسه الاقتصادية والأيديولوجية، وبالتالي كان تناقضاً طبقياً سياسياً وأيديولوجياً. لكنه يتحوّل الآن إلى تناقض ماهوي لا علاقة له بالأيديولوجيا أو بالطبقات.</p> <p dir="rtl"> هنا يكمن الفرق بين الطائفية والتوظيف الطائفي، حيث يمكن أن تستخدم طبقة هذه المعتقدات الموروثة من أجل تحقيق مصالحها هي، وليس بالضرورة أن تكون هي حاملة لهذه المعتقدات. وهنا يتحقق ذلك في دفاع طبقة عن مصالحها ووجودها ضد طبقات أخرى أو ضد شرائح من الطبقة ذاتها.</p> <p dir="rtl"> ولهذا ستكون الطائفية هي الميل لكسر هذا التشكل عبر الشدّ نحو إعادة إنتاج المعتقدات القديمة. وهذا الأمر لا يخص الأقليات الدينية فقط بل يخص الأكثرية التي ينشأ فيها فئات تشدّ إلى معتقدات تقادمت.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> فكتوريوس شمس</strong><strong>:&nbsp;</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">برزت المسألة الطائفية بداية في لبنان، وكان أبرز مُنظّريها ميشال شيحا (1891 – 1954) وهو واضع الدستور اللبناني في العام (1926). والذي اعتبر أن لبنان بلد فريد من نوعه "لا يُشبه إلا ذاته" بسبب تنوّعه الطائفي، فهو إذاً "بلد أقليات طائفية متشاركة"، والطائفة هي "كيان اجتماعي قائم بذاته، متماسك بلحمته الداخلية، عميق الجذور في وجوده". بناءً عليه تُعتبر الطائفة هي الوحدة الاجتماعية الأولى، لا الفرد. وهي مدخل الفرد ومعبره باتّجاه الدولة، أي أن الفرد لا يوجد في الدولة كمواطن، إلا بحسب موقعه الطائفي.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> هذا هو الفهم الطائفي للطائفة وللطائفية كسلطة "أقليات طائفية متشاركة". أمّا الرد العلمي الذي أتبنّاه فهو تعريف مهدي عامل الذي اعتبر فيه أن الطائفة "علاقة سياسية محدّدة بشكل تاريخي محدّد من حركة الصراع الطبقي"، أي أن الطائفة لا تقوم، وتتماسك سياسياً كطائفة، إلا بعلاقتها بالطوائف الأخرى، وبموقعها في الدولة، وقربها أو بعدها عن السلطة في شبكة من المصالح والتقاطعات مع المكونات الطائفية الأخرى في الكيان السياسي الواحد.</p> <p dir="rtl"> أما الطائفية، فهي النظام الذي يؤمّن للبرجوازية الكولونيالية (هذا في المجتمعات متعدّدة الطوائف، بينما قد تحل القبلية، أو الجهوية.. إلخ في مجتمعات أخرى) ديمومة سيطرتها الطبقية.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> محمد ديبو: ومتى نقول عن نظام ما أنه طائفي مثلاً ومتى نقول أنّه مستخدم للطائفية فحسب؟ هل هناك فرق؟</strong></p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> سلامة كيلة:&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">الطوائف بغالبيتها كانت نتاج العصور الوسطى، أي مرحلة ما بعد انهيار الإمبراطورية العربية الإسلامية. في هذه المرحلة بالضبط تشكلت الأكثرية (السنّة) والأقليات. فقبل ذلك كان الإسلام دين سلطة، وكانت المعارضة الطبقية تتخذ أشكالاً دينية في الغالب، لكن كمعارضة طبقية سياسية.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> هناك أربعة أنواع للطائفية السلطوية. حين تستولي قوة طائفية، أي تحوّل المعتقدات الموروثة إلى مشروع أيديولوجي سياسي، على سلطة دولة تكون هذه الدولة دولة طائفية، لأن تلك القوة سوف تفرض معتقدات كمعتقدات عامة تطبّق على المجتمع. وهذه حالة متطرفة من الصعوبة أن تنجح لأن الميل الطائفي لا يشمل كل الطائفة بل يشمل فئات منها لا يكون لديها القدرة على حكم دول، لهذا إما تدفع إلى تفكك الدولة أو تنهار.</p> <p dir="rtl"> لكن يمكن أن نلمس وضع حكم الإخوان المسلمين وحكم الولي الفقيه في إيران، حيث أن القوة المسيطرة هي قوة طائفية، أي تعتقد أنها تمثل "الأغلبية"، لكنها تطبّق منظور أقلية. وهنا يمكن القول بأن الدولة تحكم من قبل قوة طائفية، ولنجاح ذلك تتخذ هذه القوة آليات جديدة غير الآليات التي يقوم عليها الحكم في "الإسلام". بمعنى أن القوة الطائفية تصبح بديل الطبقة في السيطرة على الدولة، مع ملاحظة أنها تمثّل مصالح طبقة مسيطرة أيضاً. فالإخوان المسلمين حين حكموا في مصر، أو قبلها في السودان، ثم في تونس، هم يمثلون فئة رأسمالية تقليدية بمعنى ما (أي من بقايا تجار المدن) تحوّلت إلى مافيا، لكن يتحقق حكمهم عبر التمسك بالمنظور الأيديولوجي الأصولي. في إيران أيضاً من يحكم هم فئة من الشيعة تقرّ بولاية الفقيه (وهو فرع ضعيف في الشيعة)، لكنها تمثّل فئة رأسمالية كذلك.</p> <p dir="rtl"> هناك شكل ثالث "مؤسسي" أنشأه الاستعمار، هو شكل الدولة الطوائفية، أي الدولة التي تتشكل مؤسسياً على أساس تقاسم المسئوليات السياسية، والوظائف الحكومية بين الطوائف وفق امتياز لطائفة معينة. وهنا يبرز مثال لبنان، الذي كرره الاحتلال الأميركي في العراق، حيث يصبح الرئيس يجب أن يكون مسيحياً (وفي العراق رئيس الوزراء الذي هو السلطة شيعياً) ورئيس الوزراء سنياً ورئيس البرلمان شيعياً (في العراق الرئيس كردياً ورئيس البرلمان سنياً). وهو نظام يعيد إنتاج التكوينات المجتمعية على أساس الطائفة، رغم أن من يحكم ليس بالضرورة طائفياً، أو أن من يوظف يجب أن يكون متمسكاً بالأيديولوجية الطائفية. هو تقسيم شكلاني يسمح ببقاء المجتمع مذرر، ويسهم في إنتاج التعصب الطائفي والحرب الطائفية. بالتالي يمكن القول بأن النظام السياسي ذاته هو نظام طوائفي، دون أن يكون من يحكم طائفياً، رغم أن موقعه يحدِّد الطائفة التي ينتمي إليها. ولهذا فإن الأحزاب غير الطائفية المعبّرة عن البرجوازية تميل إلى تملّق الطائفة، والحديث بلهجة طائفية (مثل ميشيل عون الذي هو علماني كما يُفترض لكنه يمارس الطائفية لأنها تخدم وصوله إلى الرئاسة). ليصبح هذا الشكل هو المعبّر عن مصالح فئة من طبقة، كي تهيمن على باقي الطبقة. وكل صراعات الحرب الأهلية في لبنان هدفت إلى تعديل ميزان القوى بين الطوائف في علاقتها بالدولة، وتعديل وضعها في إطار الطبقة الرأسمالية المسيطرة.</p> <p dir="rtl"> أما استخدام الطائفية فهي تحدث حين لا يكون النظام طائفياً بل يمثل فئة معينة (رأسمالية في الغالب)، لكنها للحفاظ على سلطتها تستخدم كل الممكنات، ومنها تفتيت المجتمع وتذريره. هذا ما كان يفعله الاستعمار، وتفعله الإمبريالية، لكن تفعله كذلك نظم رأسمالية مافياوية. فمثلاً كما لاحظنا في لبنان أن الفئة المسيحية من الرأسمالية تستخدم تكوين لبنان الطائفي لكي تبقى مسيطرة على الدولة وبالتالي على مجمل الطبقة. بمعنى أن الفئة المسيطرة على السلطة لا تكون طائفية، وربما حتى غير متدينة، لكنها تستغلّ معتقدات متقادمة لكي تحافظ على سيطرتها على السلطة. وهذه المعتقدات يمكن أن تكون دينية أو طائفية أو قبلية أو مناطقية، أي كل الموروث المتخلف المستمرّ من الماضي.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> فكتوريوس شمس:&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">السؤال بحاجة لتدقيق، لأن فيه لبس، يُشيّىء الطائفية، لتبدو وكأنّها رداء يُخلع ويُلبس حسب المزاج، وهذا تبسيط وتسطيح لا يمنعنا من افتراض أن النظام الذي "يستخدم" الطائفية يستطيع أن يستخدم نظام آخر متى شاء. أن يكون نظاماً ما ديموقراطياً، أو ديكتاتورياً، أو حضارياً، أو قبلياً، ليس قراراً مزاجياً تستخدمه الطبقات المستأثرة بالسلطة متى شاءت، هذه مسألة لها علاقة بمصالح طبقات مهيمنة تلجأ للنظام أو للنمط الذي يؤمّن لها ديمومة سيطرتها الطبقية في بيئة اجتماعية مُحدّدة بغض النظر عن قناعات أفرادها الشخصية. وهنا نردّ على السؤال بسؤال: هل يستطيع النظام الليبي الحالي وهو في ذروة مآزقه استخدام الطائفية لتثبيت سلطته؟. الجواب: هنالك استحالة، لأن المجتمع الليبي متجانس طائفياً. هذا يعني أنّه سيلجأ لعصبية أخرى (بحسب المفهوم الخلدوني للعصبية) ربّما يجدها في الجهوية أو القبائلية.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> اعتمد النظام السوري جملة مفاهيم قومية ممزوجة بأفكار وشعارات اشتراكية متناثرة في مراحل سابقة، كانت تؤمّن له سيطرته وإعادة إنتاج نفسه. لكن انفجار الثورة يعدّ إيذاناً بإفلاس هذه الشعارات التي أفرغت من معانيها، فما عاد مجدياً استخدامها، فاضطر بحكم الأمر الواقع، والتركيبة الاجتماعية السورية لشكل آخر من الصراع، أي للتصعيد والتجييش الطائفي الذي ليس لديه خيار آخر سواه. وهذا يطرح سؤالاً آخر: بغض النظر عن الشكل الحالي للصراع، هل يستطيع النظام العودة لاعتماد المفاهيم القومية و الاشتراكية السابقة، والجواب مجدّداً: بالقطع لا.</p> <p dir="rtl"> استخدام الطائفية، هو هو الطائفية، لا فرق ولا فصل بين الإثنتين، والمسألة لا تُقاس بنوايا ورغبات وآمال القائمين على الصراع من الجهتين (نظاماً و "معارضة")، بل بتأثّير حركة الصراعات على الأرض ومدى قدرة الفئات المتصارعة الحفاظ على سيطرتها، خاصة في ظل انعدام أي نمط حكم بديل، بغياب كل التيارات الأيديولوجية كالقوميين والماركسيين وغيرهم.</p> <p dir="rtl"> أمّا الفرق بين النظام الديني والنظام الطائفي، فهو، أن النظام الديني نظام أغلبية دينية مطلقة، ليس فيه شراكة مع أي طائفة دينية أخرى رغم وجود هذه الأقليات الطائفية في الدول الدينية كالسعودية وإيران مثلاً. بينما النظام الطائفي يفترض بالأساس وجود مجموعة أقليات دينية متشاركة في السلطة على أساس المحاصصة، وإن كان هنالك هيمنة لواحدة على أخرى.</p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> محمد ديبو (سؤال الى سلامة كيلة): <a href="http://janoubia.com/184791">تقول</a> "حين نريد توصيف نظام سياسي يصبح من الضروري أن ننطلق من “التحليل المادي” لكي نفهم بنيته والمصالح التي يمثلها، ومن ثم الشكل الأيديولوجي الذي يستخدمه من أجل فرض الهيمنة على المجتمع." هل يمكن أن نعتبر الدولة العباسية أو النظام الايراني تحت ولاية الفقيه أنظمة طائفية بحسب هذا التعريف؟</strong></p> <p dir="rtl"><strong> سلامة كيلة</strong><strong>:&nbsp;</strong><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">لا مقارنة بين الدولة العباسية وإيران أو دولة الإخوان المسلمين، لأن الأيديولوجية الدينية كانت حينها هي أيديولوجية الدولة التي تفرض على المجتمع، الذي كان يخوض صراعاً طبقياً سياسياً عبر أشكال دينية. ولقد بات هناك أغلبية وأقليات دينية بعيد انهيار الدولة العباسية وتشكل الطوائف كلها كطوائف دينية بعد أن كانت تعبّر عن تيارات فكرية تعبرّ عن فئات اجتماعية. أعيدت صياغتها في طوائف بعيد الانهيار بدءاً من القرن الحادي عشر، وخصوصاً في القرن الثاني عشر والثالث عشر. وهنا باتت خارج الدولة، بمعنى أن الطوائف تشكلت كطوائف بلا دولة، وفي تضاد فيما بينها حينها. وحين كانت الأيديولوجية السنية تحكم كانت تعتبر أن الطوائف الأخرى من درجة أدنى، وفي بعض الحالات كانت تعمل على تسخيرها أو حتى القضاء عليها (كما زمن السلاجقة أو المماليك وخصوصاً في بعض مراحل الدولة العثمانية).</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> الآن في إيران تنحكم الدولة لمذهب شيعي هو فرع من الإثني عشرية، المذهب الذي يقرّ ولاية الفقيه (وهو المذهب الأضعف في الشيعة)، لكنها تتعايش مع الطوائف الأخرى، حيث في إيران عدد كبير من السنة. وهي تعتبر أنها تحكم باسم الأغلبية. وهنا يفرض التمييز العددي المسبق في تشكيل السلطة، بحيث تبقى سلطة "شيعية". رغم أنها لا تمثّل كل الشيعة، لا من حيث اختلاف الفرق الشيعية ولا من حيث العدد السكاني. لهذا فهي باسم الشيعة تخدم مصلحة فئات رأسمالية محدَّدة. الطائفية هنا تكمن في التمييز بين السكان في المشاركة في السلطة بالأساس وفق المنظور القديم الذي يرى الشعب طوائف ولا يرى شعب، أو طبقات في الشعب. وبالتالي فهو منظور طائفي. وكل منظور يقوم على الدين سيكون منظوراً طائفياً، لأن يرى البشر وفق الانتماءات الطائفية، وبالتالي لا يرى بشر. هذا هو المنظور المتوارث منذ انهيار الدولة العباسية وتشكّل الطوائف. ولهذا سيكون منظور النظام السعودي طائفي بالضرورة لأنه ينطلق من المذهب الوهابي. لكن الطائفية بالمعنى الذي أعتقده أعمق من ذلك، لهذا أشرت إلى أنها تسعير الصراع ضد الآخر انطلاقاً من معتقدات موروثة وصراع ماضوي. والصراع هنا هو صراع ما دون سياسي.</p> <p dir="rtl"> ولا شك في أن النظام الإيراني يسعى لفرض هيمنة على المنطقة في إطار الصراع العالمي وميله لكي يكون قوة عالمية، ولهذا عمل على تقوية حزب الله في لبنان، وتمتين العلاقة مع النظام السوري والتفاهم مع الأميركان بخصوص العراق إلى أن سيطر عليه، ويُظهر أنه مناصر للقضية الفلسطينية. ومن أجل ذلك يستخدم كل ما هو ممكن، ومن ذلك الشيعة، فيظهر أنه يمثلها، ويحاول تحريك الشيعة في المناطق التي تريد الضغط فيها، أو يدعم قوى شيعية من أجل الحصول على مكاسب كما يفعل في البحرين واليمن. وأيضاً ضمن هذه السياسة أقام علاقات وثيقة مع حركة الجهاد الإسلامي ومع حركة حماس، وتحالف مع محمد مرسي وحكم الإخوان المسلمين في مصر، ويعزز علاقاته مع تركيا أردوغان. بمعنى أن النظام في إيران يعمل ضمن رؤيته لمصالحه، رغم طابعه الشيعي، وانحكامه للولي الفقيه. وهو يتعامل بذكاء ودهاء لتحقيق ذلك. هنا الشيعية غطاء للمصالح، وهو لا يتعامل معها كحاجز طائفي. لهذا يتحالف مع الأصولية السنية (حماس والإخوان المسلمين) في إطار الصراعات الإقليمية القائمة ومن أجل تعزيز وضعه الدولي.</p> <p dir="rtl"> أما حول نشر التشيع فإن جزءاً كبيراً منها هو إشاعات أو جزء من الصراع الأصولي السني ضد الشيعة.<a name="logo"></a></p><p style="background-color: #ededed; padding: 14px; border: 1px dotted #003399;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img style="float: right; border: 3px solid #fff; margin: 0px 10px 10px 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /><br /></p><p></p><p></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria-arabic">الطائفية في سوريا: من ألفها إلى يائها</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">What is sectarianism in the Middle East? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/samer-al-qatrib/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B1%D8%A4%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89">الثورة السورية: رؤية من الأعلى</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/enrico-de-angelis/rethinking-syrian-media-arabic">اعادة التفكير بالاعلام السوري </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism Arabic language Mohammad Dibo Victorios Shams Salameh Kaileh Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:15:14 +0000 Salameh Kaileh, Victorios Shams and Mohammad Dibo 87041 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The right to neighbourhood: way out of a sectarian quagmire https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/tahir-zaman/right-to-neighbourhood-way-out-of-sectarian-quagmire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Damascus there are no direct routes linking Jaramana to Mhajirin, or the Yarmouk camp to Sayyida Zayneb - each home to different communities stratified along lines of class and religious belonging. Isolation and distance is reinforced; and in so doing serves to reproduce the Other. </p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p>“I remember hearing a story that was doing the rounds during the Iraq war. You have in Baghdad al-Kadhimiyeh and al-A’dhamiyeh a bridge which connects the two neighbourhoods. The people of al-A’dhamiyeh are Sunni and in al-Kadhamiyeh they’re Shi’i. During the war a bomb went off on the bridge and people fell into the river and of course not everyone knew how to swim (it’s tough even for those who know how to swim - the currents can drag you away). There was a boy around 16 years old - ‘Othman was his name. He was a boy but a big lad you know. He dived straight in and one by one saved the lives of 22 people. He got to the 23rd person, an old lady, and his body gave way and they both drowned. But for five years even in the midst of all the bombing that has torn Baghdad to bits - the people of al-A’dhamiyeh and al-Kadhimiyeh got on with things - they had peace between them. They recognised the sacrifice of this boy; he became a symbol.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Syrian small business owner. London, April 2014. </p></blockquote><p>A different conflict in time and space, yet one where the pervasive stench of the sectarian narrative persistently lingers. Although in this telling of the event some of the details are not wholly correct - the boy was 19 and it was the fear generated by the presence of a supposed suicide bomber rather than an actual explosion that had sparked panic among Shi’i pilgrims resulting in a stampede on the al-A’immeh bridge killing 953 people, it is notable that a narrative calling on neighbourliness to counter sectarianism is remembered. It alerts us to a deep-seated desire for an alternative and one which comes not from above but from unlikely, ordinary sources.</p> <p>Reducing identity to primordial notions of religious belonging produces a distinctive set of processes and practices which seek to subjugate, dominate and exclude the Other while occluding social, cultural and economic factors at play which cut across those very same communal cleavages. Tellingly the sectarian narrative of the Syrian conflict has been near-hegemonic. Analysts from across Syria, the Middle East and the wider world have increasingly come to interpret the conflict through a sectarian lens. Think tanks, policy makers, journalists and academics have all been guilty of demonstrating an unhealthy obsession bordering on perversion with geo-political readings that over-emphasise the clout of sectarian armed groups and gloss over the agency of millions of Syrians. This is in keeping with the al-Assad regime’s telling of events which from the very beginning of the conflict has employed a communitarian discourse that has been willingly reproduced by sections of the armed opposition. Although framed in the language of religious symbolism, this discourse has very little to do with everyday lived understandings of religion.</p> <p>How can we challenge the methodological sectarianism obfuscating how we think about what is happening inside Syria today? This is not to downplay the dangers of sectarianism, which are very real, but to begin a conversation on finding a common script that will help transform the parameters of this internecine conflict. To do so, I suggest the fight be taken to those who assert their authority by mobilising religious symbolism. This can be done by questioning the epistemological basis of their claim to authority through religion. Drawing on conversations with displaced people in the region, my argument is a simple one: religion is about relationships not identity. Religion encourages us to look inward to nurture the relationship with the self and with God. The practical manifestation of ‘lived’ religion is the nurturing of relationships with the Other. We are relational beings and religion is centrifugal. How we relate to the stranger is of paramount concern to religious teachings. In what follows, I consider the possibilities Islamic tradition affords in transforming strangers into neighbours and how a politics of propinquity could provide an alternative framing of the conflict to date. But first, I shall explore how a right to neighbourhood has been eroded in Syria’s recent history.</p> <p><strong>Strangers in our midst &nbsp;</strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/micro-thawra1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/micro-thawra1.jpg" alt="The minibuses of Damascus. Source: Longreads.com. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The minibuses of Damascus. Source: Longreads.com. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>Sectarianism in Syria did not emerge overnight nor has it been expressed in a uniform manner. Indeed sectarianism has arguably been a disciplinary technique through which the Ba’thist regime has managed to maintain control over the movement and degree of interaction between Syrian people. One only need think of how little movement there was between and within urban centres, thereby entrenching rigidly parochial understandings of identity. For the large part, even within a single city there is little reason for residents of one district to visit another. Spaces in which to have meaningful interaction with the Other have long been few and far between. Where they do exist, here I take the old city of Damascus as an example; they remain under the watchful gaze of the regime. A confined space allows for easier monitoring and surveillance of any signs of dissent. The centre of the city becomes a supposedly neutral space of carefully managed ‘mixity’. There are no markets specific to a district which can draw in people of other faith communities. There are no competitive sporting events which take participants and supporters on journeys to neighbouring districts. Theatres, art galleries, exhibitions, music concerts, cinemas, sporting complexes, restaurants are largely confined to the centre. </p> <p>Even more quotidian journeys are closely managed. Much of the movement across the city is mediated through the <em>servīs</em> - privately owned mini-buses seating a maximum of fourteen passengers that ply fixed routes between Damascus and its suburbs. The cost effectiveness and the rapid frequency of the <em>servīs</em>, means it is the favoured choice of transport in the city for those on low incomes. The mapping of routes is far from arbitrary - indicative of where movement to and from is deemed desirable. There are no direct routes linking Jaramana to Mhajirin or Mukhayim al-Yarmouk to Sayyida Zayneb; each home to different communities stratified along lines of class and religious belonging. Isolation and distance is re-enforced; and in so doing serves to reproduce the Other. </p> <p><strong>Towards a politics of propinquity</strong></p> <p>What do I mean by a right to neighbourhood? The rights discourse is built on an understanding of individual rights. While this has undoubtedly advanced debates on liberty and social justice - a dogmatic adherence to the individual fails to see the wood for the trees. Individuals are located relationally both within and outside larger units in social space: family, neighbourhood, work-place. A right to neighbourhood guided by a politics of solidarity anchored in local relations would serve to protect the well-being, dignity and integrity of all those who form the neighbourhood, including those who arrive as strangers. It would protect the neighbourhood against the caprice of a state which serves to defend the interests of those close to its centre - upholding not only social, cultural and political rights but economic rights also. </p> <p>The politics of propinquity I am advocating here is far from being parochial. It does not serve to exclude. Rather, social distance between self and Other are compressed and boundaries are recognised as spaces to cross rather than bound. It understands an individual, a neighbourhood, or a city to be part of a greater whole. Relationships are configured radially. It is useful here to think of a concentric circle spiralling outwards, or of a matryoshka doll - the spaces in between are not void but thick with meaningful relationships. &nbsp;</p> <p>The conflict in Syria can be read retrospectively as a case where the right to neighbourhood had been eroded by decades of subjection to an insidious politics of entrenched sectarianism. The question ‘where are you from?’ takes on a sectarian aspect when asked even within urban centres. Neighbourhoods and districts had become characterised by specific communities along the lines of religious belonging. While it can be argued that such an evolution of neighbourhoods is organic, with people tending to inhabit areas where kin and social networks already exist, it remains debatable as to whether the Ba’thist state encouraged otherwise. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>On the eve of the conflict in Syria, social transformation was already fast under way. Mismanagement of the agricultural sector by the al-Assad regime in tandem with a devastating drought had rendered rural livelihoods almost impossible with more than three million Syrians living in extreme poverty. Decimated communities from farming communities in the Houran to the South and al-Hassake, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa to the North and East were compelled to move en-masse, as many as 50,000 families, to the fast-expanding poverty belts encircling the key urban centres of Homs, Damascus and Aleppo. As long as this disenfranchised poor Other kept to the margins of already marginalised outlying areas of cities, the al-Assad regime was able to convince itself that they were not there. Of course this all changed following the events of 15 March 2011. </p> <p>Douma, which has been at the heart of the uprising against the al-Assad regime,&nbsp;provides an example where the economic rights of the neighbourhood had been sacrificed to make way for a liberalisation of the Syrian economy which privileged the centre. Small to medium sized enterprises that comprised the mainstay of the Douma economy were squeezed out by cheaper Turkish goods as the détente between Syria and Turkey reached a peak in 2010. Here, the underbelly of globalisation was laid bare for all to see - unemployment, the immiseration of an urban working class and the erosion of community resilience. The call for bread, freedom and social justice in Douma was born out of recognition of the manifold ways in which the economic rights of the neighbourhood were being forsaken by the al-Assad regime. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/d2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/d2.jpg" alt="Douma's resilient neighbourhoods, 2013. By: Lens Young Dimashqi. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Douma's resilient neighbourhoods, 2013. By: Lens Young Dimashqi. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>The fact that the uprisings against the regime across the country were driven by local grievances and the protests were multi-vocal has always meant that the opposition would not be cohesive but fractured. Iterations of discontent and disenchantment with policies not grounded in local lived realities - be they the policies of the so called ‘international community’, SNC, al-Assad, ISIS or Jubhat al-Nusra - should be understood as a clarion call for localised solutions. </p> <p>Arguably, the Syrian revolution has already made strides towards a right to neighbourhood. This can be clearly seen in the rhizomatic structures of governance and administration we find emerging in non-regime held areas. The autonomy of local areas grounded in solidarity has been the popular expression of will rather than a reliance on party-based political projects. &nbsp;</p> <p>Challenging sectarianism therefore demands first and foremost a politics of propinquity - where social distances (imagined or otherwise) are collapsed. It is here that religious traditions have much to offer in building a right to neighbourhood framework which is compatible with secular readings of a civil society. A religious idiom provides adherents with a learned grammar of interaction with the Other.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A forgotten vocabulary?</strong></p> <p>Before mobilising this grammar we need to agree upon a vocabulary. In Arabic, the word nation or homeland is often translated as <em>waṭan</em>. In the context of modern nation states the right to belong is contingent on having been born in that country – <em>jus soli</em> (the law of soil) or on having a hereditary right – <em>jus sanguinis</em> (the law of blood). The Arabic term <em>waṭan</em> refers to any place which is inhabited (<em>maḥal al-insānī</em>), making no mention of either soil or blood. </p> <p>Pre-modern notions in the Muslim world of who is entitled to residency are contingent on the actual fact of residency – <em>jus domicili</em>. In contrast, under the dictates of the nation-state, citizenship becomes a matter of formal rights granted to those with a legal status: a logic which reduces belonging to the nation – and is heavily contingent on birthright.&nbsp;<em>Waṭan </em>should therefore be understood in its proper localised context. <em>Waṭan</em> is an elastic term contingent on the relationships an individual nurtures as s/he moves from place to place. The vestiges of this open tradition, which considers the mobility of people a norm rather than an aberration, is inscribed in the social and cultural practices of people in Syria today. </p> <p><em>Waṭan</em> was appropriated by Islamic reformers confounded by their encounter with western colonial powers in the nineteenth century. In one fell-swoop, al-Tahtawi’s conflation of <em>waṭan</em> with territory placed the concept firmly within the framework of the nation-state. Since then, thinking people concerned with the role of Islam in the contemporary world have been confronted with the Sisyphean task of reconciling a universalizing religion with a nation-state framework which by definition is exclusionary. This paradox has drawn many into an&nbsp;intellectual morass wading through debates on authenticity where religion is largely understood as a matter of identity. Nowhere does the expression “you are what you eat and wear” seem more apt than in how Islam is currently discussed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. </p> <p>Equally damaging has been the gross over-simplification of the imagined community of believers - the <em>ummah</em>. For many it has simply become a byword of pan-Islamic solidarity. As with <em>waṭan</em>, it has been absorbed into the nation-state paradigm - the <em>ummah</em> becoming a confederacy of nation-states where convenient for ruling elites. The calls for an Islamic state arise from the same place. Grafting the notion of <em>ummah</em> onto <em>waṭan</em> (as understood by al-Tahtawi) we begin to see the emergence of a discourse of Pan-Islamism in the late nineteenth century with the writings of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. This coincided with calls for the <em>ummah </em>to defend the Caliphate during the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire - again elitist readings of the <em>ummah</em>. </p> <p><strong>The stranger in the Arab-Islamic imagination</strong></p> <p>Once again, it is in the context of the encounter with western colonialism and the emergence of the nation-state paradigm that we find the language used to describe relationships with the Other becoming less conciliatory - moving from <em>gharīb </em>(stranger) to <em>ajnabi</em> (foreigner). </p> <p>Etymologically <em>ajnabi</em> (pl. <em>ajānib</em>) can be traced back to the root j-n-b or to put to one side. The word <em>tajannub</em>, which shares the same root as <em>ajnabi</em>, means to avoid - transforming the stranger or foreigner into someone to be avoided. This can be attributed in part to the encounter with colonialism and the confusion engendered through being made subordinate to a people who did not share the same world-view. The nineteenth century witnessed traditionalists vying for the hearts and minds of local populations with reformists in the territories of the Ottoman Empire. The latter looked to challenge orthodoxies and introduce new laws based on the imitation of colonial powers. While reform-minded individuals considered cultural and ontological borrowings from Europe an opportunity to cast off the shackles of stagnation attributed to orthodoxy, traditionalists understood such reforms in the light of colonial expansionism – strangers were now understood to be uninvited and unwanted guests. Paradoxically, supporters of orthodoxy - increasingly blurring discourses of nationalism with religion - were championing a view at odds with centuries of lived Islamic tradition which upheld the virtue of accommodating the stranger. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the pre-modern era the term <em>gharīb</em> was often used less as a legal category than an all-embracing label for any individual who had left her original place of residence voluntarily or involuntarily: it was not contingent on the length of stay. It encompassed students, religious scholars, wandering ascetics, pilgrims, traders and forcibly displaced people - clearly an ambiguous and nebulous term. On the one hand, good treatment of strangers was a highly regarded custom of pre-Islamic Arabian culture such that those who demonstrated kindness and generosity to strangers were lauded with the title of <em>ma’wā al-gharīb</em> (refuge of the stranger). This attitude towards strangers was further institutionalised by Qur’anic and Prophetic injunctions which encouraged generosity and good conduct towards strangers. In particular, the bolstering of the pre-Islamic tribal practice of <em>jiwār</em> – the granting of protection and assistance to the one seeking refuge illustrates the central importance of hospitality towards the stranger. This is perhaps unsurprising given the geographical terrain Bedouins from the Arabian Peninsula inhabited. The harsh climate combined with the arduous journeys across desert necessitated hospitality – in short it guaranteed survival. We are reminded of this on a daily basis whenever we greet one another with <em>ahlan wa sahlan</em> - may you be at ease among the plains as if you were among family.</p> <p>One <em>ḥadīth</em> attributed to the Prophet states: "Islam began as a stranger, and it will revert to its (old position) of being strange. So good tidings for the strangers".[ii] While the exact meaning of this <em>ḥadīth</em> is open to interpretation, it unequivocally celebrates the stranger - encouraging good treatment towards the other as a fundamental concern of Islam. Another phrase oft-used in Islamic traditions to denote the stranger includes the <em>ibn al-sabīl</em> (literally the son of the path) and is interchangeable with <em>'ābir al</em>-<em>sabīl </em>(traverser of the path). A <em>ḥadīth</em> of the Prophet states: "Be in this world as if you were a stranger or an <em>'ābir al-sabīl</em>” - pointing to the metaphor of religion or a life well-lived in accordance with God’s Laws as being a journey or a crossing. It is also worth remembering that the <em>ibn al-sabīl</em> is included as one of the categories eligible for financial support and assistance through the mechanism of <em>zakāt</em>.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/hg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/hg.jpg" alt="‘Forced to Leave’ by Cuban artist Angel Boligàn captures the ambivalence of exile. Yearning for home, and carrying it everywhere" title="" width="358" height="480" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Forced to Leave’ by Cuban artist Angel Boligàn captures the ambivalence of exile. Yearning for home, and carrying it everywhere</span></span></span></p> <p>Yet, in the Arab imagination the loss of social and material capabilities through being made an exile is a fate worse than penury - it speaks of a poverty of relationships. A popular proverb in Damascus warns of the fate that lies in store for one forced to leave his home: <em>mīn tarak dāru ‘all miqdāru</em> - the one who leaves his home, lessens his value. To overcome this loss, human activity is re-interpreted through the narrative of religion. The idea religion is able to offer legitimation in a way that the state cannot is one which came up time and again in my conversations with displaced people in the Middle East. Belief in Islam ameliorates the anguish that comes with a life in exile. Being a refugee is un-stigmatized. One Iraqi refugee, Aref, I met in Damascus told me: &nbsp; </p><p>‘For Iraqis to leave Iraq it was hard. No one wanted to leave Iraq; they needed a safe place to go. I found my belief in Islam makes it easier for me to think about being a refugee. It’s a hard thing to do, to leave your home, but I know that my Prophet did the same, and he was a refugee. If we think about it, in Islam we see that borders are not important, there are no nationalities. The differences are with language. All the land belongs to God and you can find a place to live and work wherever you go.</p> <p>An Islamic narrative allows displaced people to re-imagine their migration. As Aref reminds us: “all the land belongs to God”. Territorial sovereignty belongs to God rather than the state. Everyone has the right to move freely without hindrance - borders have no place under this schema. A Qur’anic injunction to demonstrate kindness to categories of persons includes among them <em>al-jār dhil-qurbā</em> (the related neighbour) and <em>al-jār al-junub</em> (the unrelated neighbour). Al-Tabārī in his exegesis of the Qur’an states that the unrelated neighbour is one who is not necessarily Muslim and the command in the Qur’an is directed towards the treatment of all neighbours. Thus, the traditional interpretation of the unrelated neighbour equates it with the <em>gharīb</em> or stranger. The Islamic narrative demands the stranger is entitled to “find a place to live and work wherever [he goes]”</p> <p><strong>Becoming Other: lessons learned from mass displacement</strong></p> <p>Conflict induced violence and forced migration are key contributors to social transformation; communities are left fragmented; economic resources usurped or destroyed; and traditional ways of life are re-examined and interpreted anew. The loss and attempt to retrieve re-create or perhaps even re-shape the vital cultural resources which constitute relational understandings of home lie at the heart of the decision-making, religious practices and beliefs of displaced people in the Middle East. </p> <p>As the social anthropologist David Turton reminds us: “the experience of displacement is not only about the <em>loss</em> of place, and the pain and bereavement this entails. It is also, inevitably, about the struggle to <em>make</em> a place in the world.” And so, with every fragmentation comes a re-imagining and re-configuring of community and neighbourhood; with the destruction of economic resources come changes in livelihood strategies; and with the re-examination of traditional social structures are born new perceptions of identity and belonging.</p> <p>Many of the displaced people I have spoken to over the past eight years have identified communal home-like spaces (mosques, churches, places of learning, community centres) as being significant in helping orient themselves following displacement. Community centres, particularly those organised around networks of self-reliance, are often described as a refuge from the cramped conditions in which displaced people ordinarily live. Aside from being used as places of learning, such centres are used to celebrate festivities including weddings and annual religious festivals, to organise sporting and cultural events, to introduce neighbours to one another, to pray. In short, such spaces are deeply anchored in the lives of displaced people. In using communal spaces as much as possible including as a place to meet friends, to eat, drink and be hospitable, displaced people affirm the centrality of relational understandings of home in religious practice and imagination. </p> <p>The theme of neighbourliness was integral in their understandings of home-making and religion. It is in the understanding of reciprocal rights and duties pertaining to neighbourhood and neighborliness that the <em>ummah</em> is realized as lived practice. Far from political readings of <em>ummah</em> as understood by the modernizing efforts of Islamists such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani from the late nineteenth century onwards, the lived experiences of displaced people remind us that the <em>ummah</em> is found first and foremost in localized contexts. A Syrian refugee I met in Urfa echoed the experiences of Iraqi refugees I had met earlier in Damascus in 2010. He signalled the importance of neighbourly visits as a barometer of meaningful relationships: </p> <p>“I like it when they (Turks) treat us equally and not as ‘poor’ refugees. When they visit and invite us to their homes - I feel normal and equal to them. I’m not made to feel like a refugee. It’s great when people call on you like this. Visiting people’s homes like this means we have proper relations.”</p> <p><strong>Conclusion: a Syrian sanctuary</strong></p> <p>Who is a stranger but one who is different from me - the Other. The experience of becoming Other makes us sensitive to the richness of difference. Islamic tradition provides us with a vernacular for celebrating diversity and plurality. This is supported by the oft-quoted verse from the Qur’an (49:13): </p> <p><em>O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All- Aware.</em></p> <p>The stranger is thus readily transformed into a neighbour. S/he moves from being a guest who as common wisdom never fails to remind us must never outstay a welcome to becoming a neighbour. Lest we forget a neighbour in the Islamic tradition has rights due to her: '<em>A'isha reported Allah's Messenger as saying: “Gabriel impressed upon me [kind treatment] towards the neighbour [so much] that I thought as if he would confer upon him [the right of] inheritance.”</em></p> <p>Similarly, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against the ill-treatment of the neighbour: “<em>He will not enter Paradise whose neighbour is not secure from his wrongful conduct.</em>” To emphasise the gravity of behaving improperly towards the neighbour irrespective of her faith, ethnicity, sexuality, we are reminded that good conduct towards the Other is in fact a characteristic of the believer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) observed: “<em>He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should do good to his neighbour and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either speak good or better remain silent</em>.”&nbsp; </p> <p>By shifting our gaze towards those who are displaced within the territorial borders of Syria, we are reminded that conflict zones produce not only debris-ridden neighbourhoods, deserted villages and unimaginable violence but also engender networks of self reliance and spaces of hospitality, refuge and sanctuary despite the degradation and erosion of ever-dwindling resources at the disposal of host communities.</p> <p>In the midst of conflict the rights of neighbourliness are upheld on a daily basis across Syria. As the delivery of humanitarian aid to non-regime controlled areas becomes ever more challenging and less frequent, more and more Syrians are forced to migrate where humanitarian aid is more accessible and the threat of aerial bombardment negligible. By November 2013, the al-Assad regime was reporting that around 3% of the 6.5 million IDPs were housed in public shelters - mosques, schools and other public buildings. More than 85% of those displaced inside Syria’s borders have found refuge in the homes of relatives and extended family according to government statistics. </p> <p>Cities such as Salamiyeh and Suweida, home to large minority populations of Ismailis and Druze respectively, have also welcomed the arrival of significant numbers of displaced Sunnis offering them shelter within their own homes. Saleh, a resident of Suweida, described to me the reception displaced people have been afforded in spite of severe restrictions imposed upon community initiatives by the al-Assad regime:&nbsp;</p> <p>“The local people were quick to welcome displaced families and even host them in their own homes until they [the displaced families] were able to secure more suitable accommodation. In many cases, rent is initially paid by the people of Suweida; securing even necessities such as mattresses, blankets and basic cooking utensils, as the displaced people arrive with nothing but the shirts on their backs. The people of Suweida have done as much as they can. The thing that stands out the most, is the attention and care given to displaced children. [To provide a sense of normality] the local community has established opportunities for children to play - they are given toys and provided a distraction away from the conflict. Educational needs have also been addressed by providing courses to allow the children to catch up on their disrupted education. Again this has been free with teachers and specialists working voluntarily.” </p> <p>The arrival and reception of Sunnis in cities with large minority populations is significant in that it counters a sectarian narrative. It challenges the hegemonic account of the conflict as being one where one faith community is seeking to assert its dominance over another. Instead, the stranger is welcomed and supported by Others. </p> <p>There is no doubt that the strains under which local communities are placed is great: the lack of resources, even fewer employment opportunities, upward spiralling prices of daily necessities, and chronic shortage of space to meet the demand of new arrivals all contribute to possible flashpoints of tension. Yet, the crisis also brings with it the opportunity for the nurturing of neighbourly relations and for demonstrations of hospitality - of knowing how to treat the stranger in our midst in an ethical manner and building towards a politics of propinquity.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/tahir-zaman/political-islam-in-neoliberal-times">Political Islam in neoliberal times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east">What is sectarianism in the Middle East? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mahmoud-mroueh/antisyrian-sentiment-in-lebanon">Anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria refugees solidarity Syria and sectarianism Identity islam Through Syrian eyes The future: Islam and democracy Right to the city Tahir Zaman Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:31:33 +0000 Tahir Zaman 86714 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What is sectarianism in the Middle East? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/salameh-kaileh-victorios-shams/what-is-sectarianism-in-middle-east <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The term is heard whenever the Middle East or Syria are discussed, yet a talking head would be pressed to define what they mean by sectarianism. Mohammad Dibo speaks to two prominent Arab thinkers willing to assist our understanding by going back to the basics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a name="logo"></a></p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /></p><p><strong>Mohammad Dibo: Can we have an opening definition?</strong></p><p><strong>Salameh Kaileh:</strong>&nbsp;The sect is a community that subscribes to certain religious beliefs from the past. These beliefs, at the time of their formation, were the expression of the ideological and class conceptualisation of a certain social group. This conceptualisation is transformed into a religious belief when there is a societal collapse and social groups become closed, whereupon these conceptualisations are reformulated as “mythological” beliefs. The sect is a group of people who were born to certain beliefs. Their beliefs often survive only cosmetically: people practice some celebratory or funerary rituals, or marry into the same sect for reasons of continuity. But these inherited beliefs do not serve as a basis for relations with the larger society where more common traditions and customs, both in urban and rural societies, are more prevalent. These beliefs generally recede against modernist ideas allowing for more societal integration.&nbsp;</p><p>Sectarianism is any religious or sectarian barrier that is based on inherited beliefs against the ‘other’. That is to say: sectarianism is turning diversity to conflict. Without doubt this diversity is a result of an ancient conflict, however, the conflict at that time had economic and ideological bases for a political and ideological class conflict. Whereas before they represented intellectual currents rooted in material social classes and conditions, this language of an old struggle is used today in an essentialist way that has no relation to ideologies or classes. &nbsp;</p><p>There is a subheading which we could call, sectarian instrumentalisation. A certain class could utilise these inherited beliefs to advance its own interests, without necessarily believing in them. This can be seen in the context of a class’s defence of its own privileges and existence against other classes, or against other sectors from the same class.</p><p>Sectarianism is the tendency to undermine social cohesion by pushing for the reproduction of ancient beliefs and separations. This process is not exclusive to religious minorities, but can also be observed in the majority as well.</p><p><strong>Victorious Shams: </strong>The sectarian question emerged in Lebanon initially. Its main theorist was Michel Chiha (1891-1954) who is considered one of the fathers of the Lebanese constitution (1926). Chiha viewed Lebanon as a unique country that is “only similar to itself” because of its confessional diversity. Lebanon, according to Chiha, was a country of “partnership between sectarian minorities.” The sect was considered a “stand-alone social entity, held together by its internal cohesion, and with deep historical roots.” Thus, the sect becomes the main, and elementary, social unit, rather than the individual. Indeed, it becomes the necessary gateway between the individual and the state--i.e. the individual’s relationship with the state rests upon his sectarian affiliation, rather than his claim to citizenship.</p> <p>Citizenship is replaced by a sectarian understanding of sectarian authority, as in a “partnership between sectarian minorities.” Mahdi Amel formulated a scientific rebuttal of this understanding. He defined the sect as a “specific political relationship that is defined by the history of class struggle”; that is to say, a sect only achieves presence and political cohesion through its relationship with other sects, its position within the state, and its proximity to authority in the network of interests that covers all the other sectarian components in the political system.</p> <p>Sectarianism, according to this definition, is the system that best preserves the classist hierarchy and the dominance of the colonial bourgeois class (this is in communities with diverse confessional backgrounds, where tribalism might prevail in other types of community).</p><p><strong>MD: When is a regime “sectarian” and when can we say that it is “instrumentalising sectarianism”? Is there a difference ?</strong></p> <p><strong>Salameh Kaileh: </strong>Most of our sects are the product of the Middle Ages after the collapse of the Arab Islamic empire. This is the era that witnessed the formation of the majority—Sunnis--and religious minorities. Prior to that, Islam was the religion of the authorities, and thus class opposition would usually take a religious shape, but as a politicised class opposition.</p> <p>There are four types of state sectarianism<strong>. </strong><strong>W</strong>hen a sectarian power obtains authority over a state--i.e. it transforms these inherited beliefs into an ideological and political project--this becomes a sectarian state, with the power to enforce its beliefs upon the entire community. This is an extreme example that rarely materialises, because the kind of sectarian fervor needed for its success is usually only felt by small parts of the imagined community, who rarely have the necessary force to control a state. More often than not, this scenario ends with the disintegration and collapse of the sectarian state.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, take the examples of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the <em>Velayat-e Faqih</em> (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists) in Iran. Here we find that the ruling power is another type of sectarian power--i.e. it believes that it represents the majority, but it enforces the views of a minority. Here we can indeed say that the state is governed by a sectarian power. To ensure its control, these powers implement different control mechanisms, replacing the class hitherto dominant in the control of the state, while at the same time representing their interests.</p> <p>When the Muslim Brotherhood won power in Egypt, as before that in Sudan and Tunisia, they represented what remained of a traditional capitalist sub-class (city merchants), a group who could only ascend to power by dint of their adherence to a fundamentalist ideology. The ruling class in Iran is the capitalist class linked to a denomination of Shia who believe in <em>Velayat-e Faqih</em> (a relatively weak current in the Shia spectrum).</p> <p>A third form of sectarianism is the institutionally sectarian. This brand is mostly created by colonial forces. The institutions of the state are filled on the basis of power-sharing between different sects. The obvious example, of course, is Lebanon (which was replicated in Iraq by the US occupation): the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of the parliament a Shia (in Iraq: the president is Kurdish, prime minister Shia, while the speaker of the parliament is Sunni).&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a system that reproduces societal groupings and identities on the basis of sect, regardless of whether the ruler is sectarian or not. It is a superficial sectioning that keeps society divided, and contributes to sectarian intolerance, and eventually sectarian upheaval. In this case, we can label the political structure sectarian. And even if the ruler is not sectarian, his position is inevitably determined by his sect.</p> <p>In the institutional sectarian cases, we find that even potentially non-sectarian bourgeois political parties tend to flatter sects and use sectarian discourses (for example, Michel Aoun, a prominent Lebanese politician, who, despite his nominally secular ideology, often uses sectarian discourse in the service of his bid for presidency). This privileges sectarian identities in the struggle of conflicting groups within the same class for ultimate control. In the example of the Lebanese civil war, we find that most of the struggles were aimed at revising the balance of power vis-a-vis the sects and their relationship with the state, as well as their relationships within the capitalist class.</p> <p>A regime that is not essentially sectarian but in fact represents a different class (usually the dominant capitalist class) can still instrumentalise sectarianism in its quest to remain in power. This is a very common tactic for colonial regimes, but it is also used by capitalist nations and regimes run by organised crime. In the Lebanese example we can see that the Christian capitalist class utilises the confessional structure to protect its control of the state as well as other parts of the capitalist class. In short, most ruling classes are not sectarian, nor even religious in any sense, but use these antiquated beliefs to assert control over the state. These beliefs are mined for their religious, sectarian, tribal or even regional prejudices.</p> <p><strong>Victorious Shams: </strong>Your question needs some revision. The phrasing objectifies sectarianism, as if it were a choice. Like a cloak that can be worn or discarded at will. This is a simplification of the issue that might suggest that the regime under discussion, the one that “instrumentalised” sectarianism, could arguably equally formulate itself in many other ways, if it so wishes. This is not the case. The nature of any political regime (be it democratic, dictatorial, tribal, etc.) is not born out of choice, but rather governed by the complex interests of the ruling class and by whichever part of the system is best suited to preserving its hegemony in a specific social setting, regardless of the personal convictions or wishes of individuals within that class.</p> <p>In retort to that question, we might pose another one: could the Libyan regime, at the height of its crisis, resort to sectarianism to preserve its authority? I think the answer is that this was glaringly impossible, for Libyan society is homogeneous from a sectarian point of view. That means, the regime would have had to resort to another type of <em>Asabiyyah</em> (as elaborated by Ibn Khaldun) such as tribalism.</p> <p>The Syrian regime has long rested its control upon a blend of nationalist and socialist maxims that have preserved its hegemony and allowed it to survive. The revolution however marked the collapse of these maxims, which have long been drained of any substance. They were replaced, under pressure of the fight for survival, with different ones that ushered the conflict in a different direction: sectarian mobilisation and escalation. This was not a matter of choice, but rather a necessity in the context in which the regime found itself. This begs another question: regardless of the current framing of the conflict, could the Syrian regime return to its nationalist and socialist maxims with any credibility? The answer again is a glaring no.</p> <p>To my mind, instrumentalising sectarianism is simply sectarianism: there is no difference between the two concepts. One cannot analyse the matter on the basis of the wishes and intentions of those in the driving seat of the conflicting camps (the regime, and its opposition). Indeed, one must proceed in one's analysis from the effects of the conflict on the ground, and the ability of each party to preserve its control. This is especially true in the absence of alternative ideologies, like Arab nationalism or Marxism.</p> <p>The difference between sectarian and religious regimes is that in the case of a religious regime, one is subjected to an absolutist religious hegemony that allows no sharing of power with any other religious groups, as is the case in Iran and Saudi Arabia. A sectarian regime, on the other hand, presupposes power-sharing between different religious minorities on the basis of quota, even if the system is overwhelmingly dominated by one of them.</p> <p><strong>MD. (to Salameh Kaileh):&nbsp;You have said that, “when we want to characterise a political system, it is necessary to proceed from a materialist analysis to understand its structure and the interests it represents. Only then can we study the ideological form it uses to impose its hegemony over society."</strong><strong><strong> Can we consider the Abbasid Caliphate or the Iranian state&nbsp;</strong><span>under the jurisdiction of Velayat-e Faqih&nbsp;</span><span>as a sectarian regime using this definition?&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <p><strong>Salameh Kaileh:</strong><em>&nbsp;</em>We cannot make a valid comparison between the Abbasid Caliphate and the modern regimes of the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran. At the time of the Abbasids, religion was the ideology of the state that was used to coerce society, and class and political struggles took place through religious forms. Religious majorities and minorities took their shape as sects only after the collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate (especially in the 12th and 13th centuries). Before that they represented intellectual currents rooted in material social classes and conditions.</p> <p>This transformation happened outside the state; that is, these sects were stateless and in conflict. When the Sunni ideology rose to take control it considered other sects to be of a lower level, and in some cases actively worked to enslave or eradicate them (as has happened in the Seljuk and Mamluk empires, and even more so in some periods of Ottoman rule).</p> <p>Today in Iran, the state is ruled by a Twelver Shia denomination that ascribes to the concept of Velayat-e Faqih, but it also co-exists with other sects (Iran is home to a significant Sunni minority). The Iranian state considers itself a representative of the majority Shia population, despite the fact that it does not represent all Shias (neither all denominations, nor all the people). Thus, while it rules in the name of Shia, it actually serves the interests of a specific capitalist class. Sectarianism in this context is discrimination between people in their access to power. This is based on an inherited model that conceptualizes the citizenry, not as citizens, but as delineated sects. This is indeed a sectarian perspective. A parallel example can be seen in the Wahhabist ideology of the Saudi regime.</p> <p>Having said that, the concept of sectarianism, as I have tried to explain goes deeper. It stokes conflict with the ‘other’ on the basis of antiquated conflicts and inherited beliefs. That is, it is an infra-political struggle.</p> <p>There is no doubt that the Iranian regime aspires to enforce its hegemony over the region in the context of international struggles and its own aspirations to become a major power. This is why it has supported Hezbollah in Lebanon, strengthened its relationship with the Syrian regime, coordinated its strategy with the US in Iraq, and supported the Palestinians. To this end, the Iranian regime will use any tool at its disposal, including sect. By positing itself as the representative of Shias, it attempts to mobilize them in areas where it needs to create pressure, and supports Shia groups for political gain, like in Bahrain and Yemen.&nbsp;</p> <p>But it has also nurtured very close relationships with groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and the Erdogan government in Turkey (all Sunni forces). That is to say that the Iranian regime operates pragmatically with concern to its regional interests, despite its Shia character and its commitment to the ideology of Velayat-e Faqih. It is a very intelligent strategy, whereby Shia ideology is only a cover, and does not represent a serious obstacle when more pragmatic alliances are needed.&nbsp;</p> <p>As for its "policy of Shiaization”, I believe this is exaggerated, and mostly perpetuated in the discourse that considers the region through a 'Sunni-Shia struggle' framework.</p><p><span>Translated by: Yazan Badran</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/donatella-della-ratta/importance-of-telling-syrian-stories-as-they-should-be-told">The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-nachawati/kafranbel-paradigm-of-creative-storytelling-part-12">Kafranbel: a paradigm of creative storytelling (Part 1/2)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/gilbert-achcar/syrian-army-and-its-power-pyramid">The Syrian army and its power pyramid</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/kamal-alam/pax-syriana-neither-vanquished-nor-allconquering">Pax Syriana: neither vanquished, nor all-conquering</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Saudi Arabia Egypt Iran Syria Hezbollah Hamas Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Looking inside the uprising Victorios Shams Salameh Kaileh Thu, 09 Oct 2014 13:42:36 +0000 Salameh Kaileh and Victorios Shams 86636 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الطائفية في سوريا: من ألفها إلى يائها https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria-arabic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: right;">&nbsp;في مشروع “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">الانتفاضة</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">:&nbsp;</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">نظرة</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">&nbsp;</a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">نقدية</a>”,&nbsp;أردنا أن نوّسع ونفتح النقاش عن "المسألة الطائفية" على مداه وبتفصيل بحيث يتجاوز صيغة: هل النظام السوري طائفي أم لا؟ يتم ذلك عبر&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">توجيه أسئلة إلى كل من سلامة كيلة وفكتريوس شمس، وتقليب الأمر على أوجه متعددة سعيا لبناء معرفة بالطائفية لا ترتهن إلا لشروط المعرفة العلمية بعيدا عن التوظيف الطوائفي أو السلطوي&nbsp;أوالدولي الساعي لبناء مصالحه على دم السوريين المسفوك على مذابح الحرية&nbsp;<br /><em><span style="font-style: normal;">&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">English&nbsp;</a></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <a name="logo"></a><p style="background-color: #ededed; padding: 14px; border: 1px dotted #003399;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img style="float: right; border: 3px solid #fff; margin: 0px 10px 10px 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /><br /></p><p></p><p dir="rtl"><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/Syria_Ethno-religious_composition._0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/Syria_Ethno-religious_composition._0.jpg" alt="خريطة طائفية لسوريا. المصدر: ويكيميديا كومونز" title="" width="460" height="393" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>خريطة طائفية لسوريا. المصدر: ويكيميديا كومونز</span></span></span>مذ انفجرت الانتفاضة السورية في الخامس عشر من آذار (2011) أطلّت الطائفية في سوريا برأسها الخجول بداية، متوارية تحت خطاب الثوار السلميين "واحد واحد واحد الشعب السوري واحد" و "لا سلفية ولا إخوان الثورة ثورة شبان" بمواجهة الشعارات التي أطلقها النظام السوري "علوية عالتابوت ومسيحية عابيروت" لوسم الانتفاضة بالسلفية والدفع نحو الحرب الأهلية، ليأتي لاحقا قمع السلطة وينهي "وجود هؤلاء ليبقى شباب أكثر بساطة، لم يستطع الاستمرار في مواجهة ذاك الخطاب، بل بعضه انخرط في الأسلمة كرد فعل معاكس" كما يقول المفكر السوري/ الفلسطيني "سلامة كيلة" لتبدأ "المسألة الطائفية" في سوريا تتقدم رويدا رويدا نحو مقدمة الأحداث، خاصة بعد أن تمازجت الثورة بالحرب الأهلية والتطرف والتدخلات الخارجية.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> انفجار "المسألة الطائفية" في بلد تعلّم على مدى نصف قرن أن يواري "طائفيته" بفعل عنف السلطة التي حكمت على معارضيها بالسجن عقودا بتهمة "بث النعرات الطائفية" وتضخم البعد الوحدوي في سوريا التي طالما عرفت بـ "قلب العروبة النابض"، جاء مفاجئا، فأربك الجميع وتعددت التحليلات والقراءات، وكأني بالمسألة الطائفية في سوريا تنتقل من التعتيم المتعمّد إلى الضوء الكاشف، وهو أمر حسن في بعض جوانبه لأنه يضع المسألة على طاولة التشريح النقدي والمعرفي بعد أن غاب عنها طويلا أو لم يأخذ حقه من النقد والنقاش على الأقل، ولكنه خطر أيضا إذ يصوّر الأمر وكأنّ ما يجري في سوريا ليس إلّا صراع طائفي على السلطة، مقصيا الصراع الطبقي والريفي/ المديني والسياسي إلى الخلف، ومستبدلا "ثورة الكرامة" وحقوق المواطنين بـ "حقوق الطوائف وحماية الأقليات"، خدمة لأجندة سلطوية وخارجية تهدف لاستغلال الطوائف وقودا لها في معركة المصالح.</p> <p dir="rtl"> هذا كله أطلق جدالا وحوارات كثيرة بين السوريين، نخبة ومجتمعا، إذ لم يبق "محرّما" لم يتم تناوله، بدءا من علاقة السلطة بالطائفية إلى العلاقة بين الدولة والطائفية، إلى علاقة الطوائف السورية فيما بينها، إلى تاريخ وصناعة الطائفية، إلى "العلوية السياسية" التي اكتشفها بعض المفكرين السوريين اليوم! وكأن السوريين يكتشفون بلدهم ويبحثون عنه في أتون ثورتهم التي أرادوها طريقا نحو وطن حر مدني علماني، فإذا بهم يقفون بين يدي السراب.</p> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/tareq_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/tareq_0.jpg" alt="خريطة غير طائفية لسوريا. المصدر: الفنان طارق سمان" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>خريطة غير طائفية لسوريا. المصدر: الفنان طارق سمان</span></span></span>من بين هذه الحوارات جرى سجال بين المفكر السوري "سلامة كيلة" والكاتب السوري "فكتريوس شمس"، حيث نشر كيلة مقالا في صحيفة “العربي الجديد” تحت عنوان "<a href="http://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/19b0e7d7-3ab8-4912-8fc4-f4b80d100ab9">عن الطائفية في سوريا</a>"&nbsp;فنّد فيه ادعاء أن يكون النظام السوري طائفيا، معتبرا أن "السلطة ليست طائفية" وأن "الصراع في سورية ليس بين أغلبية (تصنف أنها سنية) وأقلية (هي العلوية)، بل هو صراع الشعب (بكل تكوينه) ضد السلطة الناهبة والمستبدة" ليرد فكتريوس بمقال حمل عنوان "<a href="http://janoubia.com/183697"> ردا على سلامة كيلة: النظام عرّاب الطائفية وصانعها</a>"&nbsp;في موقع "جنوبية"، ليعود ويرد سلامة عليه<a href="http://janoubia.com/184791"> بمقال أخر في نفس الموقع</a>.</p> <p dir="rtl"> في مشروع "سيريا أنتولد Syria untold" وأوبن ديموكراسي المشترك,&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">“</span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">الانتفاضة</a><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">:&nbsp;</a><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">نظرة</a><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">&nbsp;</a><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">نقدية</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">”,</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;أردنا أن نوّسع ونفتح هذا النقاش على مداه وبتفصيل بحيث يتجاوز صيغة: هل النظام السوري طائفي أم لا؟ نحو بعد أعم وأشمل، يبدأ من البحث في الجذور عما تعنيه الطائفية أصلا؟ ومتى نقول عن نظام ما أنه طائفي؟ ليصار في إطار ضبط المفاهيم هذا لتحديد ما إذا كان النظام السوري طائفيا أم لا، مع مقاربة مسألة العلويين والسلطة، والدولة والطائفية والعلوية السياسية وصولا نحو معالجة كل المتن والهوامش المتفرعة عنه، سعيا لتحقيق رؤية متكاملة عبر نقد ونقد مضاد يساعدنا على التشريح والتفكيك والبناء من جديد.</span></p> <p dir="rtl"> وسعيا لتحقيق ذلك قمنا بتوجيه أسئلة مجددا إلى كل من سلامة كيلة وفكتريوس شمس، على أن نضع تلك الأسئلة بين يدي طرف ثالث ليقرؤها من زاوية أخرى، ليصار إلى تقليب الأمر على أوجه متعددة سعيا لبناء معرفة بالطائفية لا ترتهن إلا لشروط المعرفة العلمية بعيدا عن التوظيف الطوائفي أو السلطوي أو الدولي الساعي لبناء مصالحه على دم السوريين المسفوك على مذابح الحرية.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria">Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/enrico-de-angelis/rethinking-syrian-media-arabic">اعادة التفكير بالاعلام السوري </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/donatella-della-ratta/importance-of-telling-syrian-stories-as-they-should-be-told">The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-badran/uprising-and-syria%E2%80%99s-reconstituted-collective-memory">The uprising and Syria’s reconstituted collective memory</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Syria and sectarianism Arabic language Mohammad Dibo Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:04:51 +0000 Mohammad Dibo 86328 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opening the debate on sectarianism in Syria https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-dibo/opening-debate-on-sectarianism-in-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In a country where sectarian issues were ruthlessly suppressed for many decades, and where “instigating sectarian tensions” was a blanket accusation against all political dissidents, every intellectual suddenly has an opinion.&nbsp;The growing corpus of analysis and debate over the issue is startling.&nbsp;But is it going anywhere?</p> </div> </div> </div> <a name="logo"></a><p style="background-color: #ededed; padding: 14px; border: 1px dotted #003399;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><img style="float: right; border: 3px solid #fff; margin: 0px 10px 10px 10px;" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/UprisingLooinkIn-small-b%20%281%29.png" alt="Looking inside the uprising" width="120" /></a> This article is part of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0"><em>Looking inside the uprising</em></a>; a joint project between <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/">SyriaUntold</a> and openDemocracy.<br /><br /></p><p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/Syria_Ethno-religious_composition..jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/Syria_Ethno-religious_composition..jpg" alt="Sectarian map of Syria, typically found next to articles by Middle East experts. Wikimedia commons. " title="" width="400" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sectarian map of Syria, typically found next to articles by Middle East experts. Wikimedia commons. </span></span></span>Since the early days of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, sectarianism has become the subject of heated debate. The uprising’s early instigators, non-violent young activists, attempted to respond to the sectarian slogans attributed to it by regime propaganda (most famously, 'Alawites to the coffin, Christians to Beirut', with unifying cries of 'One, one, one, the Syrian people are one,' and 'Not Salafist, nor Ikhwani, the revolution is that of youth.' But as the regime’s brutality intensified, primarily targetting leading non-violent activists, “the movement was left in the hands of less experienced youth who could not counter the sectarian discourse, but rather indulged in increasing Islamisation in reaction to it,” according to Syrian-Palestinian thinker, Salama Kileh. This set the pace for the sectarian narrative to dominate debates, particularly as the uprising mutated into a civil war and the Syrian question took a backseat to geopolitical considerations and the growing threat of extremist groups.</span></p> <p>In a country where sectarian issues were ruthlessly suppressed for many decades, and where “instigating sectarian tensions” was a blanket accusation against all political dissidents, the explosive growth in sectarian discourses caught the intellectual elite completely off guard, eliciting a multitude of reactions.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">The growing corpus of analysis and debate over the issue in the past three years contrasts greatly with the forced silence of the last half century. This is a two edged sword in that it finally allows the issue to be discussed freely and analysed critically; but it also propels it to the forefront of the Syrian conflict and thus relegates equally pertinent issues, such as class and urban/rural antagonisms. More ominously however, the dominance of the sectarian narrative contributed to the disintegration of the early ideals of 'dignity and equal citizenship', which were replaced with 'sectarian rights, and the protection of minorities' - an instrument of manipulation, in other words, in the hands of both the regime and its detractors.</span></p> <p>This course of events has perpetuated many debates among Syrians, both collectively and individually. The discussions barged through the taboo on many topics including the relationship between the regime, the state, and sectarianism; relations between the sects themselves, as well the creation of a new concept - 'political Alawism'.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/tareq.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/553176/tareq.jpg" alt="Non-sectarian map of Syria. Courtesy of Syrian artist Tareq Samman" title="" width="400" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Non-sectarian map of Syria. Courtesy of Syrian artist Tareq Samman</span></span></span></p> <p>One of these debates was a prominent altercation between Syrian-Palestinian thinker Salama Kileh, and Syrian writer Victorious Shams. The genesis for that particular discussion came in Kileh’s <a href="http://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/19b0e7d7-3ab8-4912-8fc4-f4b80d100ab9 ">article</a>, in <em>al-Araby al-Jadeed,</em> where he critiqued and rejected the sectarian label of the Syrian regime and stated that, “the conflict in Syria is not between a majority (classed as Sunni) and a minority (classed as Alawi) but rather a conflict between a population (in its many identities) against a tyrannical and corrupt authority.” This prompted a <a href="http://janoubia.com/183697">response</a> from Shams arguing that the “Syrian regime is the godfather of sectarianism and its main perpetrator”.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.syriauntold.com/en">SyriaUntold</a>'s collaboration with openDemocracy, '<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">Looking inside t</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening-tags/looking-inside-uprising#0">he uprising</a>',</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;one of our aims is to widen the scope of the discussion on sectarianism and open it up to new thoughtful intersectional horizons. We plan to move beyond the simplistic question of whether the Syrian regime is indeed sectarian or not, but rather to investigate and to critically frame the underlying concepts - particularly, sectarianism and its relation to authority. We will build on the dialectical conversation between these two authors, to methodically dissect and deconstruct the complex issues at hand in order to bring a more holistic approach to the subject.</span></p> <p>This discussion begins with a set of questions we addressed to both Salameh Kileh and Victorious Shams. The resulting conversation and commentaries will hopefully offer the reader angles and layers of comprehension that take the sectarian issue beyond its instrumentalization by the Syrian regime and other geopolitical forces.</p><p><em>Translation by: Yazan Badran</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/donatella-della-ratta/importance-of-telling-syrian-stories-as-they-should-be-told">The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-nachawati/syria-and-emergence-of-grassroots-artistic-production">Syria and the emergence of grassroots artistic production</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/enrico-de-angelis/rethinking-syrian-media">Rethinking Syrian media</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/yazan-badran/uprising-and-syria%E2%80%99s-reconstituted-collective-memory">The uprising and Syria’s reconstituted collective memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/gilbert-achcar/syrian-army-and-its-power-pyramid">The Syrian army and its power pyramid</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/marwa-daoudy/sectarianism-in-syria-myth-and-reality">Sectarianism in Syria: myth and reality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Syria Class Identity Syria and sectarianism Through Syrian eyes Looking inside the uprising Mohammad Dibo Mon, 22 Sep 2014 06:01:45 +0000 Mohammad Dibo 85870 at https://www.opendemocracy.net