Sunday, 30 August 2015
The cleansing of Zabadani
' “The displacement of the people of Zabadani to Madaya means that they will be confined to a narrow and very densely populated geographic area already populated by a large number of displaced civilians and will be again besieged in an area which is being continuously targeted with barrel bombs by Assad’s warplanes and with heavy artillery bombardment by regime ground forces. The area is also surrounded by regime checkpoints where regime troops are already hunting civilians (men, women and children) from Zabadani, as well as warning them to prepare for a massacre and long-term siege. These threats against the people of Zabadani are the start of the regime’s and its accomplices’ planned ‘demographic change’ which we have warned repeatedly of. This threat to the people is not limited to Sunni Muslims but also includes the town’s Christian and other population, with all the town’s people being driven out in order to ‘cleanse’ the area and prepare for it to be resettled by foreign occupiers.”
Beyond immediate military value, forced population transfers give rise to the fear that there’s a plan to divide Syria on sectarian lines, to redraw the borders with Alawites and Shia, Sunnis and Kurds all taking their own sections of the country. Far from being a prelude to peace, such a plan would precipitate an ethnic cleansing on a scale not yet seen in the country. Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious groups do not fit neatly into geographical areas and are spread across all regions. Even in the coastal region, the regime’s Alawite stronghold and presumably a key part of any future Assadist state, the two main cities – Lattakia and Tartous- contain major Sunni populations.