Five years after the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the Druze show no signs of joining the rebellion. Even calls made by the Saudi-financed opposition, asking the Druze to rise up against the Syrian army, have fallen on deaf ears. Israel’s two-fold psychological campaign – consisting of supporting the Golan’s jihadists on one hand, and positioning itself as the only potential protector of the Druze against these very same jihadists on the other hand – has also failed. Instead, the Druze have consistently joined forces with government troops. Each time the Druze region has been attacked by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State (IS), its inhabitants have relied on the Syrian military to help defend it.
In the Province of Swaida, nobody seems to have forgotten the fate of the “Sultan el-Atrache Brigade.” Members of this small Druze unit that joined the FSA were brutally tortured by al-Nusra. Founded in December 2011 by six Druze defectors in Deraa, the faction provided military support to Deraa’s FSA Islamists including “Fajr al-Islam Battalion” during its attempt to invade Swaida in January 2013. But on Jan. 11, 2014, the group was forced to announce its dissolution. Two of its founding members, Khaled Rizk and Bassel Trad, along with a third lesser know member, Raef Nasser, were abducted, tortured and sentenced to death by al-Nusra for their religious affiliation. FSA mediators succeeded in freeing the fighters who were later expelled to Jordan. But the popularity of the fundamentalist trend among the rebels in the so-called “liberated areas” gave the Druze real pause. Those Druze who were critical of the government and eager for national reform quickly learned that there was no room for them among the rebel groups. Abused by the Islamists, disdained by the Gulf States, and limited by their own lack of money and weapons, Druze willing to join rebel militias were few. And even then, they joined the rebel cause only during the early phase of the uprising, when idealism ran high and Syrian unity seemed possible.