By James F. Harrington

Syria is made up of many diverse peoples, the majority of whom happen to be Sunni Muslims. There are also Shi’ites and a small amount of Druze living there.

There are a fair amount of Christians living in Damascus and elsewhere. During the Christmas holidays, they really go out big and decorate their homes with all these beautiful lights, etc.

There used to be a lot of Jews in Syria and there still remain a small amount, however Israel exerted a lot of pressure for the Jewish population to leave Syria and move to Israel.

These people didn’t leave Syria because of any discrimination done to them by the Arab majority. My wife’s father used to buy clothing materials from a Jewish gentleman with whom he liked doing business.

The current president of Syria, Basha Al-Assad, comes from a very small sect called the Alawi. They are an offshoot of the Shi’a branch of Islam. They are centered mainly in the isolated northwest province of Latakia.

The wealthy Sunnis of northern Syria used to look down on the Alawi’s, whom were mostly uneducated.

Basha’s father, Hafez Al-Assad came from this area. He became an air-force pilot and worked his way up the ladder. All along he made a lot of friends who were fellow Alawi’s. He also joined the Ba’th party and rose quickly to become the leader of that party in Latakia.

He finally was made the head of the Syrian army and airforce. He quickly ousted soldiers, many of whom were Sunni’s and replaced them with Alawi and Druze officers.

By way of siding with the right leaders, Hafez was finally in the position of taking power for himself.

He appointed mostly Alawi people to the top positions of the Syrian government as his son, Basha to this day still does.

Last week Basha finally lifted the 1963 Emergency Law which forbid more than three people meeting on the streets. They could arrest you and hold you in prison with no trials.

Unfortunately, he quickly replaced it with another law that bans protests without a license. Many young people are being killed on a daily basis by Basha’s security forces.

He still hasn’t released thousands of political prisoners that are rotting in Syrian jails, nor has he lifted restrictions on the media.

In 1982, Hafez violently cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the town of Hama (my wife’s mother came from there) killing around thirty-thousand people.

The only political organization that is allowed in Syria is the Ba’th party.

Like father, like son, Basha is following in his late fathers notorious footsteps!

The uprising taking place all across Syria right now, includes both Christians and Muslim young people who are trying to introduce a little freedom to their native land.