Banias is a Syrian seaside small town. About 50,000 people of various ethnic backgrounds live in the town. There are Sunnis, Alawites and Christians.
Banias grabbed headlines twice in the past. The first when there were talks about exporting the Iraqi oil at the time of economic sanctions during the 1990s. Oil used to be pumped into the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline, which was built in the 1950s.
Banias came to light again at the beginning of the Syrian revolution two years ago. Its people were the first to revolt against Assad’s regime. The regime punished them, as it did in Aleppo, by blocking neighborhoods, using heavy security points and cordons that effectively placed the inhabitants in a virtual prison for almost two years.
The city was a sectarian hotbed, since it is an extension of the Alawite areas in the north reaching the coast. This means that Assad is planning genocide in order to demoralize the Sunni population in the area and push them outside.
It seems this kind of action has already begun with two massacres committed by Assad’s militia and thugs in Banias and Al-Baidah village.
Women, children and young men were deliberately slaughtered or shot in the head. These actions were meant to terrorize people and push them to run for their lives in far away areas.
Assad was simply doing ethnic cleansing in Banias and Al-Baidah, which is similar to what he is doing in other areas, for the purpose of establishing an Alawite state in the mountains along the coast, in which he will have an absolute majority to rule.
People of Banias have been victims of this sectarian policy for more than 30 years. The Sunnis and Alawites were made to silently remain in their homes and positions, with each party becoming extremely suspicious of the other. In this explosive situation, it was very easy for the regime to ignite the sectarian fire and run the battle to “cleanse” the areas and drive away the people who have been living there for centuries.
What can be done to save these people? The Assad regime no more cares what the international opinion thinks of it, since it now knows for sure that killing thousands of helpless civilians was not within the red lines that he was warned not to cross.
It is painful enough to see that the West does not care. It is also painful enough to see Russia’s and Iran’s support of Assad. But what is really painful is to see the Arabs are angered and saddened at what’s going on in Syria, yet they are not doing much to help the Syrians. When some one published cartoons depicting the Prophet (peace be upon him) in many bad ways, the Arabs complained very loudly. We do not hear them making complaints as loud regarding the events in Syria.
The Free Syrian Army could get a lot more support than is being given at the moment. The overthrow of the Syrian regime must be made a political aim to which the Arab governments are held accountable. We know that the Arab street is boiling with anger. It’s even about to explode because of what it sees of Assad’s crimes and massacres.
One day the Arab street will explode much more violently than we might ever imagine. So I would say do not let the massacres go unpunished.
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