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Data

Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Druze in Lebanon

View Group Chronology

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, despite increasing pressure (both domestic and international) for the withdrawal of Syrian influence on Lebanese domestic political processes.

Rebellion from the Druze is unlikely considering they do not exhibit high levels of group organization, and are not repressed by the government. The democratic regime in Lebanon acknowledges the presence of the Druze in political affairs. Druze involvement in protest increased between the years of 2004 and 2005 in response to the Syrian presence in Lebanon in the “Cedar Revolution” and after the death of a Druze leader. Due to the fact that no protests occurred before or after these two years, protest is unlikely to occur unless something of great magnitude occurs in Lebanon.

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Analytic Summary

The Druze in Lebanon mainly reside in the rural southeast of the country (GROUPCON = 3) in the Shuf, Al Matn, Hasbayya and Rashayya Regions, although some 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). Although the Druze speak Arabic like Lebanon's larger Maronite, Shiite and Sunni populations, they differ from these groups religiously (BELIEF = 1) 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 last in 2005, 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 as 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 (ECDIS06 = 0), and since the Taif agreement of 1989, the Druze have participated in parliamentary politics (LEGISREP04-06 = 1), although they remain banned from holding the post of President, Prime Minister or Speaker. .Available sources indicate no government repression toward the Druze in recent years. The Druze typically do not participate in public protest; however, 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). Also, the anti-Syrian protests that occurred in 2005 allowed the Maronite Christians and the Druze to set aside their differences for a unified cause (PROT05 = 4). 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. However, the Army Chief of Staff is generally a Druze, and they are represented in parliament (POLDIS04-06 = 0) 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. Walid Jumblatt has emerged as the most influential Druze leader at the present.

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References

Hark, Judith. 1993. "Change and Continuity Among the Lebanese Druze Community: The Civil Administration of the Mountains, 1983-1990." Middle Eastern Studies. 22:3.

Hark, Judith. 1993. "Perceptions of Community and State Among Lebanon's Druze Youth." Middle East Journal. 47:1.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Lebanon. 2001-2006.

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Information current as of December 31, 2006