A shared tragedy in Syria

Tartous bomb site Image copyright AFP

When it comes to the ongoing war in Syria, the media spotlight has generally focused on action in key cities, notably Damascus, Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs. On Monday, a series of bombings in the western Syrian coastal cities of Tartous and Jebleh, killed more than 100 people. The targets included a bus station and a hospital.

Eyewitnesses said they were 'shocked' because this particular part of Syria had not previously experienced the kind of violence and instability plaguing much of the country.

The areas, where members of President Assad's Alawite sect traditionally lived, were described by many media headlines as 'Syrian regime stronghold' and the ' Assad Heartland' including the BBC. Some Syrians have taken to social media to criticise these depictions for being simplistic and for militarising civilian targets.

Image copyright Twitter

While it is true that the roots of the Alawite group are deepest in the coastal and mountain regions of western Syria, the area is by no means homogenous. (It should also be noted that several publications changed the wording of their headlines following criticism from social media).

In the aftermath of the killings a picture is emerging on Facebook posts and Twitter feeds of the diverse backgrounds of those who were killed. Most of the victims were civilians and virtual memorials pay tribute to students, doctors, bus drivers and, yes, military men from the Syrian army.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Photos of people who were killed in the bombings were shared

As Syria has fractured under the burden of war the Tartous and Latakia governorates have increasingly been defined by their political affiliation to the Assad regime. Many from this region have died fighting on the front lines in Homs, Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zor.

However, the mass killing on Monday (for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility) of such a wide spectrum of Syrian society has given an insight to the diversity and complexity of these communities.

Some of the most vocal critics of the Assad regime, have taken to social media to condemn the attacks and express solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones.

Due to the relative stability in the mountain and coastal region hundreds of thousands of Syrians from war torn areas such as Aleppo and Idlib have fled there throughout the conflict. By and large there has been limited friction and animosity between the local communities and those who have come seeking sanctuary.

However, there have been reports of attacks on internally displaced Syrians in retaliation to the bombings including the unverified reports on social media about torching of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in the small town of Amrit and violence against people at a camp in Tartous.

Some people local to the Tartous and Latakia area have lashed out against fellow Syrians who have moved into the area to escape fighting elsewhere in the country, many of whom are Sunnis and from areas now under rebel control. One Facebook user alleged, "without the displaced people, terrorism would not be able to strike Tartous".

The Facebook page for the media office for the Governorate of Tartous quotes the local mayor as saying "the terrorists are not from the residents of the province, the aim of the explosion was to create a gap among the residents and incite sedition among Syrians" and the Tartous City Facebook page claims that "groups" of the city's youth are protecting the displaced camps "to prevent irresponsible actions by some people".

Reporting by:

Zak Brophy & the BBC Monitoring Middle East team

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