Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, an opposition Alawite religious cleric who recently fled to the Turkish town of Antakya revealed that “the Alawite community is living in a state of great fear, after we have become aware that the collapse of the al-Assad regime is imminent, which will place us at the mercy of fierce reprisals from the Sunni majority.”

He added “many Alawite families have already fled their homes in Damascus and returned to their villages in the Lattakia countryside.”

The cleric also revealed that he, along with a number of other Alawite activists, have worked hard to convince many Alawite youth not to join Syria’s military reserves or heed military summons, calling on the Alawite community “not be become embroiled in killing their Syrian brothers.”

He added “the regime has embroiled us in a sectarian war against the Sunnis, and if the Alawites had participated in the revolution since the beginning the regime would have been toppled, whilst the Alawite community would have no reason to fear. However after all this bloodshed, it is very difficult.”

The cleric, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the al-Assad regime, also called on the Sunni community “to extend their hand to the remaining Alawite community following the ouster of the regime so that we can make peace and build a free, just and democratic Syria.”

As for the role played by religious figures – on both sides – regarding what is happening in Syria, and whether they are taking any positive action to end this, he said “it is very difficult for us to play any role so long as the regime remains” adding “we may play a role after its ouster to put an end to the expected violence.”

The cleric also criticized the Syrian opposition and its organizations, including the Syrian National Council and Syrian National Coalition, saying “the opposition has failed to put forward practical steps to reassure the Alawite community and convince them to abandon the al-Assad family. On the contrary, they have done nothing but talk and rely on unpopular Alawite figures.”

Commenting on the relationship between the al-Assad regime and the Alawite community, the Alawite cleric acknowledged that this was very close, adding “the heads of the security apparatus acquire their legitimacy from Alawite religious clerics with the objective of covering up their corruption, and we find that every security officer is accompanied by a religious cleric.” However he also stressed that this is not a systematic policy of the al-Assad regime or Alawite sect, denying that there was any “[formal] alliance between the Alawite religious establishment and al-Assad family.”

He added “the Alawites do not have a priestly class in the Christian manner or a Fatwa committee along the Islamic line. [Alawite] religious clerics are part of the people who have underdone Alawite education.”

The religious cleric also related a story about an Alawite youth that accurately portrays the Alawite community’s state of fear and desperation. He revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the “youth broke into a religious shrine where the Alawite community prays…and he completely destroyed the shrine” adding “he took this action after a number of rockets hit his village, fired from an outlying village controlled by the armed Syrian opposition.” The Alawite cleric stressed that “the youth realized that shrines and saints cannot protect the Alawite community from the existential threat it is facing.”