Nytt

Frykten for at opprøret i Syria skal ta en sekterisk dreining, ser ut til å ha slått til i landets tredje største by, Homs, fredag.

Der skal alawittiske bøller med stokker ha omringet en sunni-moske og ropt anti-sunni-slagord fredag. Sunnier skal ha svart med å kidnappe tre alawitter, som ble funnet drept lørdag. Derfra eskalerte volden.

Washington Post understreker problemer med å få detaljer bekreftet. Men at det har vært alvorlige drap mellom folkegruppene, synes hevet over tvil. Hele byen på 1,5 million innbyggere er grepet av frykt, og folk som bor i blandede områder forlater sine hjem.

Confirming the details of what happened is difficult because press access to Syria has been limited and the city is so sharply polarized along sectarian lines that residents gave starkly contrasting accounts.

But based on interviews with witnesses on both sides of the divide and a medical worker who tracked the violence and collected the bodies, it appears that the tensions soared after a crowd of Alawites armed with sticks surrounded a mosque in a Sunni neighborhood shortly before the noontime prayers on Friday and began chanting anti-Sunni slogans.

Sunnis responded by abducting three Alawites and on Saturday, their bullet-ridden bodies were found dumped in a Sunni neighborhood of the city. Alawites went on a rampage, looting and burning Sunni shops. In the melee, at least three Sunnis were killed, including a 27-year-old woman who was gunned down when she stepped outside her home in a majority Alawite neighborhood. One activist said that six Sunnis were killed, bringing the total number of deaths in the tit-for-tat killings to nine, though the medical worker who saw the bodies could only confirm a total of six.

Residents on Monday described a city gripped by fear, with most shops closed, bursts of unexplained gunfire and Sunni and Alawite residents fleeing those areas in which they found themselves in the minority.

Både syrere og observatører har i lang tid fryktet at opprøret skulle utvikle seg til hat mellom folkegruppene. Det er det grobunn for all den tid Syria styres av minoriteten alawitter.

Men opprørerne har så langt ikke vist tegn til å ville ta igjen overfor vanlige alawitter.

I Hama ser denne demningen ut til å ha bristet.

“It’s on the edge of civil war,” said a Christian businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety. He said he originally supported the protest movement, but now stands with the government after witnessing incidents of sectarianism that make him fear for the future of Syria’s religious minorities.

A democracy activist in Homs, who also did not want to be named for fear of repercussions, said Sunni opponents of the government are just as scared.

“The atmosphere in the city of Homs is horrible,” he said. “People are afraid of genocide and we pray the night passes without us being killed.”

Situasjonen er uoversiktlig. Flere aktører kan ha motiver for å piske frem hat og eskalerende vold mellom de religiøse gruppene.

Islamister kan ønske å gjøre det til en religiøs konflikt. Det vil tjene deres sak selv om prisen vil bli høy. Zarqawi brukte bevisst denne taktikken i Irak, ved å angripe shia-muslimske helligdommer og pilgrimer.

Regimet kan se seg tjent med å fremprovosere en sunni-backlash for å skremme befolkningen til å slutte opp sitt styre: frykten for borgerkrig vil få mange til å velge Assad som det minste onde.

Det tredje momentet er at ingen lenger har kontroll på opprøret: situasjoner kommer ut av kontroll, og ting skjer lokalt. Regimet har i lang tid brukt bøller som angriper folk med kniver og stokker. Det kan fremprovosere reaksjoner.

Et fjerde momement som er til stede hos regime-tro alawitter er frykt: bak aggresjonen liker frykt for hva som vil skje om de taper. Det har lett for å føre til at man overdriver volden. Men oddsene til regimet er dårlige, og i lengden er dette en selvdestruktiv linje.

“The games and dirty practices of the regime in order to incite a sectarian fight to divide the citizens of (Homs) won’t work,” said a statement issued by the Local Coordination Committees, the most organized of the activist groups, in response to the violence. “We reaffirm the peaceful nature of the revolution.”

But there have been several indicators that the Local Coordination Committees, one of several groups involved in organizing and monitoring protests, do not exert full control over the protesters in Homs, or even in many other towns around the country.

Kaoset gjør det vanskelig å skille på hva som er hva og det er lett å fiske i rørt vann for ekstremister.

A Facebook page that appeared last week, entitled Homs Revolution and featuring a picture of a masked man, offers one glimpse into the depth of the sectarian hatreds that are surfacing. Postings refer to Alawites as “pigs,” describe a plot by “nusariya” — a derogatory term for religious minorities — to purge Syria of Sunnis and urge Sunnis to take up arms against the government. The origins of the page, which has more than 2,000 “likes,” cannot be confirmed.

Sectarian violence in Syria raises fears