The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Syrian Minorities Organizing Self-Defense Groups

As the conflict in Syria drags on, religious minorities in Damascus are increasingly arming themselves and forming neighborhood defense groups for protection against the rebels. The Washington Post has more:

“Because there is no army here, we are keeping the place safe,” said Abu Nasif, leader of a community defense group stationed on a street corner in the old city – a walkie-talkie beside him. One of his comrades, known as Ammar, added: “Whoever is not from this street and causes trouble will be punished.”

In the Druze and Christian-dominated district of Jaramana, tit-for-tat killings in recent months between local vigilantes and raiders from elsewhere have left residents braced to defend themselves by any means necessary.

These groups are very different from the violent Alawite shabiha militias that closely cooperate with Assad’s official security forces. But the Assad regime does appear to be offering weapons and ammunition to those minority groups willing to accept them.

While Nasif and his comrades say they are not warriors for Assad or sectarianism, they – like a growing number of Syrians on both sides – now see this conflict as existential, and are primed to defend their place, whatever it takes.

It’s hard to foresee a post-Assad government that is friendly toward minorities—civilians or not—that are perceived as cooperating even slightly with the Assad regime. As more and more Syrians are forced to take arms and choose sides in the escalating conflict, the chances for a peaceful aftermath of the Syrian conflict are evaporating by the day.

Published on October 23, 2012 7:00 pm