Tanja Dibou (Tallinn University, Estonia) “Syrian Alawites Youth Values and Identity in Syrian Civil War”

Abstract:

Adolescence is important as it is a crucial period for the construction of values and identities. Considering the turbulence the Syrian civil war is witnessing, the challenge for the Syrian youth is the construction of national identity that supports acceptance and warmth toward various sectarian identities and their values. For centuries Syria was known for its ethnic and religious pluralism; That was broken down in the current Syrian crisis. Thus it becomes necessary to investigate various youth identities and values in order to have a better understanding of their future in Syria. One of the most controversial themes is the identity of the Alawites, whose image is very often associated with a strong protection of the Assad regime and a fight against the Sunni hegemony. The crisis has made a certain impact on the formation of the young Alawites´ identity, but there is more. The Alawites´ theology has its origins in the ancient times, but they as a religious minority keep their true religious beliefs, which have many contradictions to true Islamic teaching, in secret. Therefore it is interesting to study what are the main values of the young Alawites that distinguish them from other young Muslims in the current Syrian society. From one point of view, the Alawites represent a religious minority in Syria, from another the perception of Syrian Alawites is highly controversially in the Muslim word, as not all Muslims think of Alawites as Muslims.

The analysis is based on the portraying of the Alawites in the media, the historical texts, observations and interviews. The analysis explores the construction of the Alawites’ identity in the period of the civil war in Syria. The research shows the main values of the Alawites’ youth, their attitudes to Sunni Muslims, how open is the Syrian Alawite youth to inter-sectarian relations and what it means to be a young Alawite in the modern Syrian society.

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