[Publisher's introduction: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi]: I have written many times about the area of Jabal al-Summaq area of northern Idlib countryside that is originally Druze but whose inhabitants have been forced to convert to Sunni Islam. Presently the area is under the control of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. It is also under the control of Turkey by virtue of the Turkish army's extensive presence in the Idlib areas out of Syrian government control. In this guest post for my site, 'Odoacer' from the village of Qalb Lawza in Jabal al-Summaq, writes in condensed form on the history of Jabal al-Summaq. Note that any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own:
The History of Jabal al-Summaq
We display in condensed and summariaed form the history of this geographic region because history has its word in the events of the future.
The area of Jabal al-Summaq in olden times used to extend upon a large geographic area of the Limestone Mountains extending in this region from the west of Aleppo to Antakya [Antioch] and Rayhaniya [Reyhanli] in the north and Jabal al-Zawiya in the south.
Coming back to the history of this region, it witnessed the first cradle of Christianity after its appearance in Palestine when the preachers of the new religion set out and Antakya was a refuge for them and the Christian religion spread in this area and the pagan temples turned into churches and when Philip the Arab became Roman emperor (and he was from Shahba in Syria), the region prospered and he permitted them to build buildings in year 244 CE, and Paulus [Paul of Samosata] became bishop in Antakya, when the second oldest church in the world was built in Farq Biza one kilometre away from Qalb Lawza in Jabal al-'Ala whose elevation is 683 meters above sea-level.
And in the village of Qalb Lawza in the year 480 CE, the cathedral of Qalb Lawza was built. And we notice that the region of Jabal al-Summaq prospered until the year 1100 CE and this is confirmed by the buildings and decorations present in the monasteries and churches in it throughout this time. Then the Crusader invasion of the area came and seized control of it for a period as well. And in the period of the Fatimid state there came to inhabit this region Arabs who adopted the madhhab of Tawheed [Druze religion] in the time of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. And they were subject to persecution at the hands of al-Zhahir his son after the disappearance of al-Hakim in the year 1020 CE.
And a portion of them migrated to Lebanon and Suwayda' later.
There occurred an earthquake in the year 1138 CE, and a great portion of the buildings were destroyed when the Romans migrated out of this area as well, and a few of them remained, and this is indicated by some of the Syriac names of the villages like the name Mar Tahwan and it is now called Ma'arat al-Ikhwan.
A few of the inhabitants remained in the mountains, in each village a family or two, and their people became known for generosity, love of guests, and standing with truth in the face of the invaders, and solidarity with their neighbours, and providing relief to the one in distress. And these qualities are still until now with their sons.
And in the time of the Ottomans, their situation was good and they worked in agriculture of olives, grapes and hunting. In the year 1815 CE, the inhabitants were also exposed to forced displacement following which a portion of them migrated after a problem they faced even as they were innocent of the sins falsely concocted against them.
And in the time of the French occupation, they had nationalist positions through embrace of the revolutionaries in the time of Ibrahim Hanano in 1925 CE, as the women of the revolutionaries and their children remained among them with protection and preservation.
Preservation of honour is among their qualities.
And in the time of Syria's independence and the rule of the Ba'ath, its sons were among those who studied and learnt, and there graduated from the sons of the Jabal teachers in the Syrian, Arab and international universities currently.
With the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011 CE, the sons of this Jabal have been exposed to some harassments, and the events of 2015 CE the massacre of Qalb Lawza in which its sons became victims of the takfiri oppressive thought.
The area of Jabal al-Summaq is divided according to their Tawheedi books into Jabal al-Summaq and Jabal al-Anwar and messages have been designated among them for the mountains on account of their religious importance among them.
The inhabitants of this Jabal enjoy knowledge of the fusha Arabic language [i.e. standard and 'refined' Arabic] and showing their alveolar consonants and articulations in a very good sense. And this is what confirms the truth of their authentic Arab ancestry from the Lakhmids and Tanukhids. And it is also said that some of the families among them have Kurdish origins. But they have preserved the purity of their descendants through marrying from their relatives only. So they resemble each other in form, customs and beautiful personalities, and courage is among their mutually inherited characteristics.
But what is coming for them in the coming days, and amid the return of this region to the control of Turkey in the region of Idlib, at the heart of which Jabal al-Summaq has become? This is what we will see during the coming years for this region.