by REEM HADDAD
There is a stench to poverty and it still lingers in the corners of the houses of Alawites in Syria. Forty years have gone by , yet it is still there – never forsaking them.
Not much is known about the history of the Alawites not because there isn’t much but because so few have documented the lives and tragedies of these people. You can find it if you search well in certain books, but you are more likely to come across it in a more honest way in the eyes of the older generation. It is all there- hardship, denial, deprivation and yes fear too.
How they came to live on the harshest of mountains in Syria where only beasts lived is a question with more than one answer. Different sources tell different tales – but it amounts to the same. Massacre after massacre, each time by a different foe, but mainly by the Ottomans, resulted in the Alawites fleeing the cities where they used to live and seeking sanctuary in the cold mountains. It was very much a policy of displace and then replace. The Alawites were displaced from their urban dwellings and quickly replaced by other inhabitants. The end result was that they lived in almost complete isolation, mixing with their Christian neighbours and embracing many Christian traditions and festivals in the hope of avoiding recognition.