Understanding the Alawites’ rise to power in Syria

June 20, 2011

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(Flickr/Davit Hakobyan)
Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, addresses his nation for the third time since the start of protests in March.

President Bashar al-Assad addressed the Syrian nation today for the first time in nearly two months. In his speech, Assad acknowledged some of the protesters’ grievances and warned about the damage the three-month old uprising has had on Syria’s economy. But not surprisingly, among the few specifics Assad offered in his plan forward was that he is the one who is most fit to lead it.

For 40 years, the Assad dynasty has ruled Syria. On the face of it, their consolidation of power seems unlikely, considering they’re part of Syria’s Alawite minority. The Alawites make up only about 12 percent of the population. Sunni Muslims comprise more than 70 percent.

In what seemed like an effort to assuage sectarian divisions, last Friday’s planned demonstrations were named after Saleh al-Ali, an Alawite commander who led one of the first rebellions against the French occupation of Syria in 1918. 

Here to offer some perspective on Syria’s Alawites is Chicagoan Mohyeddin Kassar, chairman of the Syrian American Society.

The Sryrian American Society and Syrian Expatriates will hold "Syria Support Day" at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare on Saturday, June 25; 11:00am to 9:00pm. This event is Free with a suggested $20 donation. Please register online if you would like to attend. For more information call 773-827-2133.