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In Tartous, a Family Split By Politics

TARTOUS — Political and sectarian divisions created by Syria’s three-year conflict have affected most everyone in the country, even families far removed from the front lines.

Written by Sadek Abed Alrahman Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Abu Hassan is a 60-year-old Syrian Alawite, the same sect as President Bashar al-Assad. Politics had never been a source of contention in his family, and he lived a quiet life until the start of the Syrian revolution. Now he’s in a lopsided tug-of-war, standing against the Assad regime, while the rest of his family morally and materially supports it.

Hailing from a rural, educated family, Abu Hassan married at the age of 24 and settled in a small house in the largely Alawite city of Tartous, on the coast, where he raised three children. At the beginning, Abu Hassan says he was excited about the Syrian revolution and happy about the possibility of the end of the Assad government. He was disenchanted by its human-rights record and his own experience in the Syrian army.

But his wife and sons felt differently. From the onset of the protests, he says, they sided with pro-Assad relatives. They followed the state TV narrative, which depicted the opposition as Sunni extremists bent on instigating violence.

As the conflict continued, his family began to suffer its own internal divisions.

“My family has turned into pro-Assad supporters. They said this isn’t a revolution, but a sectarian conspiracy that is targeting Syrians generally, and the Alawites specifically,” he says. “They say we have to stand by Assad despite his corrupt regime. Since the Syrian rebels decided to take up arms, my life has become a living hell.”

He says walking around his hometown has become unbearable, as he bristles against pro-regime slogans and Assad posters, as well as pictures of young men who died in the conflict fighting for Assad.

“My middle son is now required to serve in the army and will fight enthusiastically for [Assad],” he says.

Abu Hassan jokes that he looks like he has aged 20 years in only two. At the end of each day, he returns home, unhappy to see his once close-knit family.

Abu Hassan now spends most of his time alone on the beach or at his orchard in the village, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Just as the Syrian people are conflicted and polarized, Abu Hassan says he is torn between breaking away from his family and compromising on his personal convictions, and looking for a way that might help him find peace.

This article was translated from Arabic by Naziha Baassiri.

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