Isn’t this conflict a sectarian civil war?

A:

No, this is a popular uprising against a tyrannical dictatorship; however, it is complicated by Syria’s ethnic and religious diversity.  The Assad family and much of the nation’s business, military, and security service elite belong to the Alawite sect, which makes up about 10-12% of the population. Christians make up approximately another 10% and there are smaller communities of other sects.  Sunni Muslims make up over 70%.

While Sunni Muslims make up the backbone of the armed and civilian opposition, there is also support among Christians, and prominent voices within the Alawite community have come out in favor of the revolution.  Alawites have suffered under the Assad regime along with the rest of the population.

The SC and the FSA have called for a pluralistic, democratic state based on the rule of law, though there are legitimate fears that Alawites may be targeted in vigilante reprisals and revenge attacks.  Recently, leading commanders of the FSA have adopted a Declaration of Principles evidencing their commitment to a pluralistic, democratic state for all Syrians and prohibiting any revenge attacks from among their ranks.  With the help of the international community (which has deployed similar measures in other conflicts), the future Syrian government will need to establish and implement a robust system of local reconciliation and mediation, transitional justice, job creation, and civil courts and security in order to minimize the amount and duration of such incidents. 

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National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces
Committed to a free, democratic, and pluralistic Syria.