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The Alawis of SyriaWar, Faith and Politics in the Levant$
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Michael Kerr and Craig Larkin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190458119

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190458119.001.0001

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‘Go to Damascus, my son’

‘Go to Damascus, my son’

Alawi Demographic Shifts under Ba’ath Party Rule

(p.79) 4 ‘Go to Damascus, my son’
The Alawis of Syria

Fabrice Balanche

Oxford University Press

Over the course of the twentieth century, the Syrian Alawi community experienced significant geographic and social shifts, migrating from the marginalised Alawi stronghold in Syria's largely agrarian coastal mountain region to the capital Damascus, where they came to dominate the country's ruling elite. While underdevelopment and demographic dynamism in the 1950s and 1960s arguably motivated and facilitated the Alawi community's rise to power, their demographic transition and social promotion were actually significant factors in weakening the Asad state. Since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in the spring of 2011, President Bashar al-Asad struggled to restore hegemonic control over the state, even with the support of robust external allies, and this is due in part to the increasingly apparent demographic inadequacy of his support base, which has seen Syria fragment along sectarian and territorial lines. While former Syrian President Hafez al-Asad's regime benefited from the poverty of the Alawis, Bashar's rule has been weakened by the exclusive social promotion of the Alawi community during his tenure. To understand the demographic challenges the regime faces in its struggle to maintain power in Syria, and just how much the Alawi community stands to lose if the insurrection is successful, it is important to examine the history of the Alawi community — from its persecution under Ottoman rule, territorial expansion during the French Mandate, and social promotion under the Ba’ath Party.

Keywords:   Alawi demographics, Ba’ath party, Migration, Urbanisation, Social mobility, Hafez al-Asad, Social promotion, Sectarian lines, Territorial shifts

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