Since March 2011, sectarianism has been described as a characteristic of the Syrian conflict but hostility between sects in Syria has a longer history than it is widely known. Pre-Assad regime cabinets were mostly dominated by Sunnis in a country where around 75 percent of the population is Sunni. When Hafez al-Assad seized power via a coup in 1971 and became the unquestioned ruler of Syria, he implemented laws and policies to secure rights for minorities, specifically the Alawites over others, and oppressed the Sunni majority. The rule of minority ideology reached its sharp end during the 1982 massacre when Hafez al-Assad tried to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood. Christians, on the other hand, were not as precious as Alawites but they were not like the Kurds, who weren't treated as citizens until 2011.
Before the ongoing violent civil war and before the militia groups came into existence on the ground, the split was already there, sleeping between the country's Sunni Muslim majority and the ruling minority Alawite sect, Syria's largest minority group, who were largely secularists and are the lucky ones to be drawn as Bashar Assad's senior political and military associates. Moreover, even before the Assad regime brutally and systematically oppressed a civil uprising and took his country into a bloody armed conflict, Assad apologists were already claiming that Assad was the one and only security for Syrian minorities.
In time, the sectarian split had grown and the conflict had drawn in other minorities in Syria, including Palestinians, Armenians, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, Turkmens and Assyrians. In the last four years, we have seen many reports revealing that Christians supported the regime and its shabihas while Kurds split in two and have supported either the opposition or the regime. Meanwhile, Palestinians struggled, some starving to death in the Yarmouk refugee camps simply because they supported the revolution.
Before the war, maybe the Christians were able to freely attend church every Sunday and celebrate Christian holidays but the vast majority had to keep their heads down. At first sight, it seemed as if you were free to write and talk about anything you wanted to in Syria. But Assad's shadows were everywhere and you could not mention politics or religion at all, which, of course, very much goes against the notion of freedom.
However, the protection of minorities has always occupied the heart of the discourse in the international community, instead of calling for freedom for all, even after thousands of Sunnis were killed and even before the so-called Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham (ISIS) emerged. Syria was the righteous place to reconsider the concept of minority protection as well as political representation and equality for all people regardless of their affiliations, ethnicity or religion. However, the "minority protection" proposition has put the minorities in a status of the privileged, one that totally violates universal human rights. The equality of all Syrians and justice for all have never been addressed. That approach from Assad supporters has gained ground on the basis of the international community and it has worsened the sectarian entitlement. But now, the situation is worse than ever. Everyone is focused on ISIS's violence against minorities and Assad's butchery has been forgotten.
It's not because pro-Assadists' arguments are right or strong. The reason behind this is that minorities are like an avant-garde interest or a classy hobby to the VIPs of the international community, who indulge in some "human rights activities" in their spare time. Minorities are like endangered species, animals at risk of extinction to these people. The minorities don't need to be protected just because they are human, according to them; they must be protected as they are few in number. They're like pretty birds, or reptiles, or insects. But then, it makes all the countless people who are in the majority and dying at the hands of regime, regular animals to them, so they can be ignored.