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 (ä′lə-wīt′) also A·la·wi (ä′lä-wē′)
n. pl. A·la·wites also A·la·wis or Alawi
A member of a branch of Shiism practiced especially in northwest Syria and adjacent parts of Turkey and Lebanon.

[Arabic 'alawī, follower of Ali, Alawite (from 'Alī, Ali ibn Abi Talib + -awī, variant of , adj. suff.) + -ite.]
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Which means that Iran must understand that minority Alawi rule over the country will not survive national elections; regional authorities could be created and the Alawis and others could administer their own regions.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mostly been able to count on the support of fellow Alawis in the regime's coastal heartland in northern Syria.
What sparked off the protests to begin with was a water dispute in Daraa, the so-called epicentre of the (at first) peaceful Syria revolution, with Alawis and Druze doing the protesting.
And then there's ISIS and what the Saudis call America's 'unholy' alliances with the Shia and Alawis.
Syria, as well as Iraq, divides between Sunni and Shia but includes other Isalmic divisions such as Ismailis (loyal to the Aga Khan), Druzes and Alawis.
In Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon, as well as the Alawis (an off shoot of Shi'a Islam) in Syria they were looked down on by their Sunni co-religionists.
Some believe the breakup of Syria is inevitable and that Asad and Alawi allies will eventually retreat to the Syrian coast, possibly to Latakia, an area dominated by Alawis between the coast and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
To counter the rising Safawi power, in 1502 Sultan Bayazid-II forcefully deported many Shi'ites including Alawis from his lands to other parts of his empire.
He passed through Tripoli in north Lebanon, and saw the Sunnis and Alawis there fighting.
Other minority groups, such as Kurds, Alawis and Christians, have been mostly left to their own devices or are helped by co-religionists.
If the opposition succeeds, for minority groups caught in the crossfire--Christians, Alawis, Shia Muslims more broadly, and others--the future will almost certainly be disastrous.
Alawis are killing Sunnis and Sunnis are killing Alawis, and all of them claim to recite the one Kalima (Muslim declaration of faith).