Alawites in Lebanon

By: Issam Khoury


Poverty and ignorance have always been prevalent in the Nusayri (Alawite) region of Mohsen Mount, and the Sunni region Bab al-Tabbaneh, which has recently witnessed a violent struggle in the Northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon.


Mohsen Mount:

Most Lebanese know that this area is the center for Alawites, well known to be direct allies of Syria. Most of them are employed workers. However, at least 50,000 are living uncomfortably. This can clearly be deduced when viewing its quarters. Crowded dwellings and the intensity of cables and wires dangling in the air almost block the sunshine. Coffee houses are scattered everywhere but shops contain only meager amount of goods on their shelves. Medical centers and clinics appear sporadically, but there is only one school in the region. It has been closed since the beginning of the clashes, and because teachers came from a Sunni neighborhood.

There are many pictures, most of which seems old and faded in color, of the late Syrian President Hafez El-Assad, and others of the current President Bashar. The phrase “We are all with you” is written at the bottom. There are also pictures of previous Deputy Ali Eid, President of the Arab Democratic Party, under which flag all Alawites in the region support. Also notable are a number of photos of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and previous President Suleiman Frangieh.

Most roads in the Mount area are empty, with the exception of local security members occasionally strolling around and both elderly and young civilians. They know each other through the wireless gadgets they carry. The younger and older rest in their homes during the day, and are on guard duty at night, which is typically when clashes begin between Sunnis and Alawites.

In a coffee shop in the depths of the Mount, many young men state that in recent days they participated in defending their dignity, themselves, women and children. All agree that Sunni trends such as The Islamic Group, Islamic Unification Movement, the advocates of Omar Karami and the Mustaqbal are unified under one purpose. That is to maintain  Sunni identity in opposition of Alawis within the Mount. This goal angered Alawites enough that they now carry weapons in order to defend their identity and existence.


The Syrian-Nusayri Lebanese Relationship:

It is well known that coordination between the Syrian regime and leader of Nusayris in the Mount, Rifaat Ali Eid, takes place in his mansion (Al Moalem.) Rifaat is the son of ex-ADP General Secretary Ali Eid. He is responsible for receiving large quantities of food and supplies, and ensuring that shares are sent to the mountaineers.

Commissioned by his father, he is responsible for political relationships within the Alawite organization known as the Arab Democratic Party. His office, seen from the ground floor of his villa, appears to double as an operations and coordination room. Outside, armed guards patrol the entrance and inside, they are scattered in the living room. There are wireless sets, mobile phones, computers and untiring movement seems to be about.

The relationship between Nusayris in the Mount and the Syrian regime is based on a clear religious-tribal ground. Nusayri tribes are strongly connected and they live to serve and protect their people, according to a patriarchal system and loyalty to the leaders.

Clashes that occurred in the Bab al-Tabbaneh region in 1986 is proof of the strong tribal ties between Nusayris. Those in Mount Moshen participated in supporting Syrian troops in eleminating a great number of Sunni groups in Bab al-Tabbaneh. According to Sunni fanatics of all ages in the Northern region, there were 600 people who were killed after brutally being tortured. Nusayri in Mohsen do not conceal their victory, they connect the incident with the Lebanese Civil war based on sectarian grounds. They try to forget this, despite the Sunni fanatics. Sunni’s in the North focus on remembering the past and attempting to gain revenge for these events.

The 1986 massacre of Sunnis was in part due to the coordination between the Syrian regime and the Nusayri of Mount Mohsen. During the period of Syrian guardianship over Lebanon, Nusayris played a pivotal role in relation with the security system, when the Syrian regime formed groups from that sect as special intelligence units, and participated in establishing them along Lebanese territories. Some Alawites concealed their identity and claimed themselves as Shiites, as an undercover method. Doing so made it easier to travel along Beirut and its suburbs.

Syrian Intelligence collected a large amount of information from Lebanon. Those units are known for their loyalty to the Syrian regime and their leader Rifaat Eid, who in his addition to his role in Mount Mohsen, is extremely close to the Syrian party in Lebanon. The regime also supplied its partners in Mohsen with all kinds of heavy weapons, in order to establish their influence in the region which overlooks Bab al-Tabbaneh. Since Syrian-Lebanese borders are often not properly guarded, the possibility of smuggling weapons from Syria to Mohsen is quite reasonable. The Mountains are adjacent to the Syrian border. Many of its members are males who have experience with smuggling weapons and oil since the Civil War.

The training of Lebanese Nusayri on the mountains is quite lax in comparison to other training methods. Nusayris are often permitted to visit family members in Syria for days at a time. When necessary, they can receive intelligence training for a matter of days, which would provide solid information for both parties.

In spite of the poverty those in the mountains face, the lack of investment and absence of natural resources bring them closer to their religion and tribal spirit. Through this special relationship with their Syrian neighbors, they are permitted to conduct illegal acts such as smuggling, and still manage to earn a reasonable wage.

Today the Syrian-Lebanese Nusayri relationship is deep and impenetrable. All al-Mustaqbal partners are on the margin of Nusayri people. Though they received Eid’s huge amount of financial support, at the time where the position of the eternal leader was to occupy the mountains in Tripoli, the capital of the northern region.

Editing by: Adam November

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