Syria's Assad cultivates support from minorities
(CBS News) SWEIDA, Syria - In his attempt to remain in power, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has cultivated the support of minority groups within his ethnically divided country.
The policy can be seen at work in the southern town of Sweida. The people who live there are Druze, a religious group that has allied itself with the Syrian dictator.
When CBS News arrived in town to meet the governor, Syrian state TV was waiting.
The regime is anxious to showcase this community, full of official supporters willing to reinforce the party line: That the violence in Syria is not a civil war, but a terrorist campaign by foreign-backed extremists.
The governor said he is afraid the Syrian rebels will come to his city.
"If the countries that support al Qaeda and the jihadis don't stop, the conflict will arrive here," he said in Arabic.
So far local authorities have kept it bay, though, by supporting violent crackdowns on the slightest sign of anti-regime protests.
It was a strategy that worked in Sweida because government critics were a voca, but small, minority.
It's made Sweida an island of calm and a magnet for refugees from the fighting all around.
About 10,000 of the almost half a million people displaced inside Syria have been offered shelter by Sweida's local government.
They're housed in a former summer camp about two miles from the centre of town.
"We escaped here," one man said in Arabic, "to keep our children safe."
Another young man spoke for everyone when he said "All we want is peace."
They've got it for the moment, but with fighting now under way all around the town, this small island of peace is looking very vulnerable.
- Colo. senator who pushed for gun control may lose job
- Two teens stranded 8,000 feet up on cliff rescued by chopper
- Couple's steamy romance e-books save their home
- Innovative Ariz. class turns students' dreams into reality
- 6/18: Officials say NSA stopped over 50 potential terror attacks; Hi-tech giant creates next generation of Edisons
- David Coleman Headley: Terror sleeper agent foiled by NSA
- Attack at Bagram
- Okla. tornado survivor finds dog buried alive under rubble
- Ghost army: How a group of artists helped win WWII
- President Obama defends decisions on surveillance and Syria
- Couple reeling from recession rewrites story, publishes romance novels
- Officials say NSA programs stopped over 50 potential terror attacks
- World's vegetation seen in stunning satellite imagery
- The power of a uniquely American song
- Notebook: Banks
- Iran's new president-elect seen as bridge-builder