The Syrian Civil War is expensive business. And while the Syrian military has its foreign aid and tax money, and the rebels care awash in funds from Saudi and Western backers. The pro-regime militias though, have to fend for themselves.
And that’s everyone’s problem, including the members of the Alawite minority the militias nominally set themselves up to protect. That protection comes at a dear price, with some families being extorted out of hundreds of dollars a month.
“Every time, there is some excuse – they need food or ammunition,” one surgeon in Homs noted, saying that he and others fear their families could be kidnapped and ransomed by the militias if they refuse to pay.
These militias, called the Shabbiha, are accused of some of the worst atrocities in the civil war, and while they mostly attack Sunni supporters of the rebel factions, their reputations make it entirely credible that they would turn on “disloyal” Alawites who don’t pay protection to them.
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