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Assessment for Druze in Lebanon

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 25 March 2005
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Druze in Lebanon, 25 March 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3aa91e.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Lebanon Facts
Area:    10,400 sq. km.
Capital:    Beirut
Total Population:    3,506,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Like most other Lebanese ethnopolitical groups, the future condition of Druze is equally influenced by domestic factors and continued external manipulation by the Syrian government (which has been a mainstay in the country since Syria intervened in Lebanon's 1975 civil war on behalf of the Maronite community). Contemporary Lebanese politics is still heavily influenced by Syria, and reportedly, approximately 25,000 Syrian troops are stationed in locations throughout the country (although their withdrawal recently began). While Israel's May 2000 unilateral military withdrawal from southern Lebanon have eased tensions somewhat, Walid Jumblatt's late-2000 shift away from Damascus, then shift back to favor Syria in 2002, has yet to produce its final consequences. As Jumblatt attempts to transcend his limited role as a Druze leader to a pan-Lebanese politician, his future and that of the Druze will likely be determined by Syria's eventual decision on whether to continue or lessen its presence in Lebanon's domestic affairs.

Analytic Summary

The Druze in Lebanon have mainly resided in the rural southeast of the country (REGIONAL = 1; GROUPCON = 3) in the Shuf, Al Matn, Hasbayya, and Rashayya Regions, although certain Druze live in Beirut and its surrounding suburbs in tight-knit neighborhoods. The Druze also inhabit neighboring Syria (in its rugged southwest mountains) and Israel (in the northern Galilee) (NUMSEGX = 2). Although the Druze speak Arabic like Lebanon's larger Maronite, Shiite, and Sunni populations (CULDIFX2 = 0), they differ from these groups religiously (BELIEF = 3) and through custom (CUSTOM = 1). Although often cited as a nominal offshoot of Islam from the late 10th-early 11th century, the Druze are quite distinct from other Muslims and hold their religious beliefs privately. Nominally an Islamic religion, the Druze faith departs from Islam in a number of significant ways. Adherents believe in the transmigration of the soul; they reject most Islamic prayers, fasts, and holidays; and they do not keep Islamic shrines or places of worship. Oppressed by mainstream Islam, the Druze were forced underground where they developed a secretive and separatist social structure. To the Druze, religion always takes a back seat to political matters. Besides advancing the cause of their people typical political goals include promotion of Arab roots and adaptation to the political climate of the state in which they happen to reside. They are known for their assertive behavior when the group is threatened. They are also known to be highly disciplined and effective soldiers.

After decades of chaos the first signs of hope are now visible in Lebanon. Parliamentary elections were held in 1992 and 1996, and most of the warring factions were satisfied with the reforms to the electoral system and took part. Several militias have disbanded and/or disarmed. The relationships between the many diverse religious and ethnic groups remain tense, though, and sporadic violence has flared in recent years. For example, in 2001, Christians ravaged a Druze village and the Druze retaliated by doing the same. Also in 2001, a parcel bomb left injured three Druze women, including the sister and niece of a member of parliament. The perpetrator remains unknown.

However, for the first time in decades, this tension does not constitute the greatest threat to Lebanese stability. The greatest threat to Lebanon's stability is the ongoing Israeli-Syrian conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the first case, as long at Israel and Syria remain in an official state of war, Lebanon's strategic value will remain quite high. Israel and Syria have supported one group or another since the civil war in 1976 in an attempt to control Lebanon and with it a territorial corridor to their enemy in case of invasion. As long as the conflict continues, Israel and Syria will both likely continue to play disruptive roles in Lebanese politics.

Lebanon's sectarian structure leads to little to no cultural or economic discrimination for the Druze (ECDIS03=0), and since a peace agreement of 1989, the Druze have not faced political discrimination (POLDIS01-03 = 0). Available sources indicate no government repression toward the Druze in recent years (REPXX01-03 = 0). While Druze have typically not participated in public protest, in 2001 there was a solidarity rally attended by about 10,000 Maronites and Druze who shouted slogans against the Syrian presence in Lebanon (PROT01 = 3). Despite the growing security for Druze in Lebanon in recent years, they have often felt alienated by Lebanon's governmental structure. This is due mainly to the unwritten "National Pact of 1943", which guarantees that the Lebanese President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shi'a Muslim, but offering no similar guarantee to the Druze, although the Army Chief of Staff is generally a Druze, and they are represented in parliament. The Druze have chosen conventional means to address their various grievances, mainly through the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), which flourished under the leadership of Kamal Jumblatt, and following his assassination in 1977, by his son, Walid – continuing Druze control of the party. Over the years the PSP has alternately cooperated with and opposed many of the same parties.

References

Brand, Laurie A. Palestinians in the Arab World, New York, Columbia University Press, 1988

Congressional Quarterly Inc, 1990, "The Middle East Seventh Edition" Congressional Quarterly, Washington D.C.

Dgenhardt, Henry W. (ed), 1987, Revolutionary and Dissident Movements: An International Guide, A Keesing's Reference Publication, (London: Longman)

Hark, Judith, "Change and Continuity Among the Lebanese Druze Community: The Civil Administration of the Mountains, 1983-1990" Middle Eastern Studies, Vol 22, No 3 (July 1993), Frank Cass, London.

Hark, Judith, "Perceptions of Community and State Among Lebanon's Druze Youth" Middle East Journal Vol 47, No 1 (Winter 1993), Middle East Institute.

Hooglund, Eric. (ed), Middle East Journal, "1990 - 1993, Chronologies of Middle Eastern Events."

Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Reports 1993: Events of 1992, 1993, (New York: Human Rights Watch-Africa Watch, Americas Watch, Asia Watch, Helsinki Watch, Middle East Watch, and Fund for Free Expression)

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, 1990-1993, Keesing Record of World Events: Record of National and International Current Affairs with Continually Updated Indexes, Keesing's Publication, (London: Longman Group Ltd.)

Lexis/Nexis: Reuters, Middle East Intelligent Bulletin, BBC Monitoring International Reports, Xinhua General News Service, Agence France Presse, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and others 9/1/93 to 2003.

McDowall, David, Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities, London, Minority Rights Group Report Number 61.

Norton, Augustas. 1987. Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon, University of Texas Press, Austin.

U.S. Department of State Human Rights Reports, 2001-2003.

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