Syria's sectarian fragmentation was not created when the war began in 2011; it had its genesis in an inherited Ottoman millet system whose traits were accentuated by the "divide to reign" policies of Hafiz al-Assad. The war has compelled Syrians to cling to their sectarian identities more tightly, whether out of socioeconomic self-interest or simply to survive. Examining these identities is therefore crucial to answering the most fundamental questions about the ongoing upheaval. In many ways, the Syrian conflict has been taken out of the hands of Syrians themselves, becoming a proxy war between regional and international forces that often exploit the country's divided society for their own benefit.
This geopolitical study, illustrated with 70 original maps and graphics, is intended to foster a deeper understanding of the role that sectarianism has played in Syria's war.