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Report: Syria’s Druze Mobilize to Counter ‘Hezbollah’ Advance

Report: Syria’s Druze Mobilize to Counter ‘Hezbollah’ Advance

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017 - 07:15
The Druze community has voiced its concern over the expansion of Hezbollah and Iran in the Jabal al-Arab region in Syria. (Reuters)

Residents of Jabal al-Arab in southern Syria have started to form local authorities in order to confront the danger Iran’s and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah’s” expansion in the region.

The “Arab Druze Identity Movement” (Harakat al-Hawiya al-Arabiya al-Dirziya) and “Men of Dignity” (Rijal al-Karama) group have been formed to this end. They follow in the footsteps of the “Sheikhs of Dignity” (Mashayikh al-Karama) group, which was led by Wahid al-Balous, who was killed in an explosive for leading a front that refused the deployment of Druze outside the Suweida region.

Reports from Syria said that “Hezbollah” is exploiting its control of the region that includes Jabal al-Arab in order to target the Druze community there through spreading its creed to convert the locals to the Shi’ite sect. Suweida is predominantly Druze.

Sources in Suweida told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Hezbollah” is portraying itself as a defender of the Druze in the area, but it is in fact adopting a “divide and conquer” approach. It is stoking internal disputes among the community to later exploit them in its favor.

“The party, like the Syrian regime, its attempting to bring the Druze to their knees in order to force them to fight alongside the regime,” he said.

Thousands of Druze youth had rejected military enlistment because they refused to combat their neighbors, especially in the Daraa region that lies west of Suweida.

A prominent local figure said on condition of anonymity: “We are noticing that many people have converted to Shi’ism. There is a significant number that has also volunteered to fight takfiri organizations in several regions in exchange for money.”

The Druze have been suffering from poor economic conditions since the eruption of the Syrian crisis and a local source said that “Hezbollah” is exploiting this situation.

He said: “The party is working on luring the youths to convert to ‘Hezbollah’s’ form of Shi’ism through spreading Iranian Shi’ite ideology. The religious leaders in Jabal al-Arab view this as a major danger to the Druze community because ‘Hezbollah’, through Iranian funds, is working on spreading sedition among the locals.”

He revealed that the son of a prominent local cleric adopted the “Khomeini school of Shi’ite thought.”

“This figure even posted images of himself with Shi’ite symbols. His behavior was met with rejection and criticism. Some went so far as to describe him as a traitor,” he added.

Sources meanwhile said that traditional “nabti” poets have been paid to compose poems to praise “Hezbollah” chief Hassan Nasrallah.

In addition, they revealed that over 80 acres of land have been purchased by “Hezbollah” east of the grave of great national leader Sultan Basha al-Atrash. More than 360 acres have also been purchased between the towns of Salkhad and al-Mneidra in the southernmost area of Jabal al-Arab.

A prominent figure in Suweida warned of “Hezbollah’s” purchase of land in Jabal al-Druze, especially near Atrash’ grave, which holds great significance for the Druze community. Atrash is a symbol of Syrian resistance against French colonial rule. The figure explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran is attempting to corner the Druze community and merge it with the Shi’ite sect, the beliefs of the Wilayat al-Faqih in particular.

“Based on several testimonies by various social, religious and political officials, a bleak image is being painted of the situation of the Druze community in Jabal al-Arab,” he continued.

He also criticized the lack of any Arab help to that community, which he said “is caught between the jaws of the Syrian regime, ‘Hezbollah’ and Iran and between the jaws of the takfiri groups, such as al-Nusra Front and ISIS.”

Furthermore, another sign of the party’s scheme was a judge’s opening of a “library to study Druze teachings” in the predominantly Druze Jarmana neighborhood in the capital Damascus. The library is in fact a front to spread Shi’ite ideology and has nothing to do with the Druze sect.

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