“In war, sectarianism prevails. In peace, tribalism proliferates,” researcher Birgit Schäbler describes the nature of the Druze community’s formation, in her book Revolts in the Druze Mountain, the community the combination of which appeared the clearest in the past days, following the “Islamic State’s” attack on the city of Sweida and its eastern countryside.
The attack’s repercussions are persistent to the day, whether on the ground with the “Islamic State’s” (ISIS) movements in the governorate’s desert or at an internal level which is preoccupied with the women abductees basically and the next phase that will follow the finalization of all types of military action in the area’s surrounding.
In the past days, the governorate has witnessed civil movements to gather up all the constituents and the on-ground forces in a coalition to face the social, service-based and even the military affairs in an organized manner, in a step that depends on putting disputes aside, let them be tribal or political.
On August 4, some of the young volunteering initiatives, civil action teams and “charitable people” have all met in Sweida in an answer to an invitation that activists posted on social media platforms.
The meeting was attended by a delegation on the part of an entity that is attempting to meet with the al-Akl Sheikhdom, all the factions and the actors on the ground, as to form an operation room, which specialty is to organize response mechanisms and defend the mountain against all possible scenarios.
An informed source expects that the participants indulging in these movements will reach a meeting between all the powers in Sweida (Rijal al-Karama, al-Akl Sheikhdom, the national defense, the national party, and Rijal Mashaeikh al-Akl) and other active sides in the governorate to organize them and end the disputes in a step “to defend the mountain.”
Khalid, an activist and a journalist (refused to reveal his full name) said that the “coalition” called for by the civil entities is supposed to refuse any international intervention in the governorate or the disarmament of the local military formations.
In his interview with Enab Baladi, he said that in case the “unified coalition” is formed “it will be the mountain’s face of awareness against the regime’s plan to control the governorate, recruit those who refused to join military service. It will also work to organize the efforts and resistance,” stressing that whether “ISIS was a card to trigger chaos or to initiate a state of war in the governorate, the coalition will combat it.”
The idea behind forming a coalition came as a result for Assad’s forces abstention from participating in the combat against the “Islamic State’s” attack, for ISIS was faced only by the local formations constituted of the governorate’s people.
A few hours after the attack, the Syrian regime, through its official media outlets, showed pride in its forces’ participation in kicking off the “Islamic State” from Sweida governorate; however, activists from the city, stressed Assad’s forces refrain from participating in the battles, thus enticing the citizens’ anger in Sweida, especially the local troops.
Abstention from the battle was not enough for the Syrian regime, as it continued to ask the armed factions in the area to surrender their weapons.
A woman activist from the al-Shabki town in eastern rural Sweida told Enab Baladi that lately Assad’s forces have been demanding that the armed factions in the town surrender the weapon they took from “ISIS” when it attacked the area, but the fighters refused, telling Assad’s forces that “they are running out of patience.”
“Firm Bonds” in spite of the Disputes
The governorate of Sweida, the majority of which belong to the Druze denomination, differs from the rest of the Syrian governorates in terms of its social construction, which has a strong attachment between all the families despite the disputes between them that fail to reach the surface.
This social bonding appeared on the first day of the “Islamic State’s” attack, as reinforcements of Druze fighters reached the area from different Syrian parts, including Jaramana, Sahnaya, Golan, Jabal al-Arab, Mount Hermon to participate in the fight alongside the local armed formations in Sweida.
The matter was not limited to military dimensions, for the Druze civil actors went on demonstrations and conducted “solidarity sit ins” in a number of countries, including Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Lebanon, Golan and Jordan, where activists lit candles and carried the denomination’s religious symbols, Druze five limits flag and the Biraq, another special Druze flag.
One of the researchers, specializing in the history of the mountain and the social formation of the Druze denomination, on the condition of anonymity, said that Druze people in all areas and countries are strongly attached, away from “tribalism,” which started to appear between the small and larger families.
“The minorities’ existential conflict creates a state of attachment to the sect at war with external entities (outside the unitarian religion) and pushes them to cooperate as to fight for survival,” he added telling Enab Baladi.
He said that despite the civility that marks the Druze community and the great openness it shows, this openness hides a “minority-based fear,” which does not erupt from a way of thinking, meaning that they consider attachment to the sect and building groups that show enmity towards other groups, affects their very existence, and that openness to other societies is the way to protect themselves.
At the level of Syria, the people in Sweida has felt a state of sympathy from a number of Syrian areas, despite their different orientations, that was not shown by areas that did not suffer similar attacks, especially Homs, Lattakia and Salamiyah.
Russia Negotiates in the Name of Women Abductees
One of the greatest repercussions of the “Islamic State’s” attack was the abducted women whose destiny is yet unknown, until Russia announced that it will conduct negotiations in their name.
According to Sheikh Yousef al-Jarbou, one of the Druze Unitarian Sheikhs in Syria, Russia has taken it on itself to negotiate with the “Islamic State,” seeking the release of the women abductees, who have been held prisoners by “ISIS” more than a week ago.
On August 3, al-Jarbou told “France Press” that the “Russian side is handling the negotiations in coordination with the Syrian government,” pointing out that “ISIS” has “planned to kidnap the hostages as to impose pressure on the Syrian state to realize certain demands.”
In the first session of negotiations, the negotiating delegation refused the “Islamic State’s” conditions, which included the release “ISIS” affiliate women and men who are detained in the prisons of the Syrian regime, and first of all stopping the military campaign against the Yarmouk Basin.
The proposed conditions also included the withdrawal of Assad’s forces from Sweida and the Mountain Force’s abstention from participating in any battles beside the regime, in addition to preventing the usage of Sweida territories in battles against “ISIS.”
However, Sheikh Yousef al-Jarbou did not name “ISIS” demands.
The abductees are 21 women and eight children, in relation to whom the regime did not issue any statements about the negotiations or a consent to the “Islamic State’s” conditions, and even not about the fate of the abductees.