Report: Assad has successfully transformed Syria into a Shi'ite nation
JERUSALEM — Syria has been expelling much of its majority Sunni community, a report said.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserted that the regime of President Bashar Assad was changing the demographic balance in Syria. In a report, the center said Assad was transforming Syria from a Sunni to a Shi'ite country that included the destruction of the Palestinian community.
"Syria is being transformed from a Sunni to a Shi'ite country not only demographically but also in religious terms," the report, titled "Demographic Upheaval: How the Syrian War Is Reshaping the Region," said. "The Syrian ethnic-cleansing policy also includes the Palestinians in Syria."
Author Pinhas Inbari said the Assad regime was "systematically destroying" Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Inbari, a leading analyst on Arab affairs, said air strikes on the refugee camps were meant to prompt Sunni emigration.
So far, about three million, most of them Sunnis, out of an overall population of 22 million have fled Syria. Another five million have been forced out of their homes during the three-year civil war.
"The communities in Syria are consolidating as the Alawite-Shi'ite components gain strength," the report said. "The Sunnis are leaving for Lebanon and undermining Hizbullah's status."
Dated June 17, the report said many Sunnis, particularly residents of Damascus, also left for Jordan. An estimated 1 million Sunnis were said to have resettled in the Hashemite kingdom.
"The Assad regime has no intention to allow the refugees to return, evident in its plan to issue new identity cards to Syrian citizens and thereby invalidate the refugees' citizenship," the report said.
The report said the regime has conducted a rehabilitation program that cleared Sunni neighborhoods in major cities. At the same time, Assad joined with Iran to establish Shi'ite centers and pressure Sunnis to convert.
"Before the revolt against Assad erupted, there was already a large influx of Iraqi Shi'ites into Syria," the report said. "Their number can be roughly estimated at 500,000, and some reports say the Assad regime is giving them Syrian identity cards and settling them alongside the Druze in Hauran."