Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shifting towards sectarian fighting?

Over the last four months, protests in Syria against President Assad have been non-sectarian. However recent clashes between anti government protestors and the regime in Homs (which is the most religiously mixed city in Syria, made up of Sunni and Alawite neighbourhoods), has seen a shift towards sectarian fighting. The rise in sectarian fighting might be a tactic used by the regime to stir up religious tensions in an attempt to hold on to power within an ever volatile country.

Recent developments in Homs:

At a funeral procession being held for ten activists, another ten were killed. Earlier on in the week thirty people died in sectarian fighting as a result of the discovery of the mutilated bodies of three regime supporters. Their bodies had been thrown in a deserted area outside the city. There are conflicting reports of who these supporters were. The BBC reports that the supporters were Alawites. The Guardian reports that one was a Sunni, one an Alawi and one a Shia. Nevertheless the discovery of these bodies angered Alawites, who subsequently went on a killing spree of Sunnis and vandalized their shops.

If these killings were sectarian in their nature, they will fuel fear of future potential violence between the Sunni majority (who make up two thirds of the Syrian population), and the Alawites.

Irrespective of these killings being sectarian in their nature or not, there is a strong military presence in Homs. There are reports claiming that troops and armoured vehicles are in every neighbourhood of the city, and electricity has been cut in most parts of the city.

Other developments in Syria:

Qatar, previously a supporter of the regime, closed its embassy in Damascus in a gesture of disgust at the actions of the regime.

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