Monday 26 March 2012

“Suspicious death” of Syria Druze spiritual leader

The late Sheikh Ahmad Salman al-Hajri
An array of Syrian activists are accusing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of staging the “car accident” that killed Sheikh al-‘Aql Ahmad Salman al-Hajri, the highest spiritual leader of Syria’s 700,000-strong Druze community.
A rugged and mountainous region in southwest Syria known as Jabal al-Arab is more than 90 percent Druze-inhabited. Some 120 villages are exclusively Druze-populated.
There are only two Syrian provinces in which Sunni Moslems are not a majority: Soueida, where Druze predominate, and Latakia, where Alawites are a majority.
A statement by the state-run Syrian News Agency (SANA) said Hajri, a 1954 native of Soueida who succeeded his father Salman as Syria’s Sheikh al-‘Aql in 1989, died in a “tragic” two-car collision on the Mardak-Shahba road.
Syrian activists say the regime staged yesterday’s “car accident” to get rid of Hajri for withstanding pressure to endorse its crackdown on the uprising.
One website carries these two comments on the foul play, which if substantiated could mobilize Syria’s Druze against Assad:
Sultan Pasha al-Atrash and daughter Muntaha
  1. “After his stands, which were growing ever closer to the Syrian revolution’s and his rows with security officials in Soueida for refusing to support Assad, Sheikh Ahmad al-Hajri was killed in a staged car accident, according to our informed sources in restive Shahba.”
  2. “Is it pure coincidence to have three Soueida people killed in car accidents? They are Fadlallah Hijaz, who had served 10 years in prison; Kamal al-Maghoush, a former army officer who served 15 years; and now Hajri.”
The Syrian regime’s two most prominent Druze opponents are Lebanon’s Walid Jumblatt and Syria’s Muntaha al-Atrash, daughter of Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, who led the 1925-1927 Syrian revolution against the French.