Syria's Tangled Roots of Resentment
October 11, 2012 Lindsay Gifford
As the battle lines in Syria have hardened, there is growing consensus that long-feared sectarian divisions are being played out in a military arena viewed by combatants as a zero-sum game for survival. The Alawi minority has been described as returning to a tried-and-true playbook from the Islamist uprising of the late 1970s—relying on sectarian solidarities to carry out violent military and paramilitary campaigns—while the Sunnis have been described as (finally) rising up against minority rule. Syria has suffered historically from multiple ethno-sectarian wounds—Kurdish exclusion, Druze uprisings, the Armenian genocide and diaspora, Palestinian expulsion, Shia invisibility, Sunni downward mobility. To understand why sectarianism is often essentialized as the fundamental explanation for the massive scale of violence currently enveloping the country, it is necessary to untangle Syria’s complex roots of sectarian resentment.