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Jumblatt urges Syrian Druze, Alawites to join revolt

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt arrives at the National Dialogue session held at Baabda Palace, Lebanon, on Monday, June 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt appealed Friday to Druze and Alawites in Syria to join the uprising against President Bashar Assad, who he predicted would not surrender power.

“The explosion [that killed four senior military figures Wednesday] doesn’t mean that President Bashar Assad will leave, or surrender,” Jumblatt said during a meeting with reporters from regional newspapers at his residence in Mukhtara, Chouf.

He urged the public to “support the Syrian people with money” and arm the rebel Free Syrian Army, “which will spare us more death and destruction.”

“We are seeing battles on Baghdad Street, one of the most beautiful streets in Damascus – imagine if the intransigence and crimes continue, and this intransigence will continue. There will be more blood and destruction ... [Assad’s] madness will lead him to destroy the city of Damascus,” he said.

“I call on everyone who is hesitating to leave this hesitation and fear behind, and join the revolution,” he said, adding that a number of Syrian Druze had already done so and been killed in the fighting.

He singled out three Syrian Druze – Majd Zein, Shafiq Shuqayr and Yasser Awwad – whose deaths were reported this week by opposition websites and in YouTube videos.

The opposition media said Zein was killed during an attack in Rastan, where he had been a member of the FSA, and claimed Shuqayr and Awwad were executed by government forces after they were discovered helping soldiers to defect in the Lajat region of southern Syria.

“I call for defecting from the Syrian army and joining the Free Syrian Army because it is the only way to bring down the current regime,” Jumblatt said.

“I issue the same call to people from the Alawite sect, and say to them that they are Syrians before they are Alawites,” he added, warning that the regime was seeking to stoke civil war between Alawites and other sects.

“The regime is trying to draw a map for the area east of [Syria’s] coastal mountains, and cause the displacement of as many people as possible,” he said. He rejected the notion that only Syrian Sunnis were being targeted by this policy, citing a Christian community of 180,000 people in the city of Homs.

A regime that claimed to defend religious minorities, he continued, was engaged in a policy of leaving “no one” in certain areas with a methodical policy of shelling and destruction.

Jumblatt blamed Russia for not using its influence in the Security Council to allow a united international stance against the Assad regime.

“There were several opportunities for Russia to save Syria from the death and destruction, and in the Security Council they can still save Syria, with a positive stance that is in line with international public opinion,” he said.

“Russia’s position is no longer acceptable, morally or politically, and it can’t be understood, unless they want to go back to the old maps,” he said, citing Czarist Russia’s role in allowing Britain and France to divide Turkey and Syria at the end of World War I.

Jumblatt said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held the hard-line position of “there can be no political settlement without Bashar,” which was expressed by the Russian official during Jumblatt’s meeting with him in Moscow in January.

“This slogan has taken Syria to where it is today,” Jumblatt said, calling “impossible” the notion that a transitional government could be established, retaining links to the current regime.

“Do they want to replace Bashar with his brother, or sister, or the Makhlouf family?” he asked.

The PSP leader was asked to comment on Wednesday’s assassination of top military figures in Damascus in a bomb attack, but noted only that “they are the ones leading the campaign on the ground of bombing, destruction, kidnapping, arrest, torture and oppression.”

Jumblatt said Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, was “better at dealing with international [political] contradictions,” but that he began the policy of political assassination in Lebanon, “and this was continued by his son.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 21, 2012, on page 2.

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