Throughout five years of Syrian Civil War, the nation’s Alawite minority, which President Bashar al-Assad is a member of, has been firmly in the pro-government camp, with repeated attacks against Alawite civilians by rebels, particularly Islamists, convincing many that Assad’s loss would be calamitous.
As the peace process gets going, however, the Alawite religious leaders are trying to distance themselves from the Assad government’s policies, insisting they support a peace deal and don’t represent the “ruling political power.”
Alawites, a Shi’ite community, are about 12 percent of Syria’s population. They live in the far northwest, in Latakia, and also have a large population in and around Damascus, which has increased as the war has driven many from their homes in rebel territory.
The statement was reprinted in several overseas newspapers, and seems to be targeting the international community, and probably won’t change many opinions domestically, as they and most religious minorities will still be perceived as “pro-government” in the face of the Sunni-dominated rebellion.