World’s Druze wrap up first congress in Lebanon

BEIRUT — More than 800 Druze from 37 countries including Israel on Thursday wrapped up an unprecedented three-day congress in Lebanon aimed at uniting the secretive, small community, organisers said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 24 Jul 2010, 12:44 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:48 AM

“This congress aimed to unite the Druze, for we are a minority and must preserve our community without prejudice or racism,” said Kamil Sarieddine, who is in charge of the Lebanese Druze Council’s emigration affairs.

Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said 35 Israeli Druze were granted special documents to travel to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.

Lebanon and Syria are technically still at war with Israel and as such forbid anyone carrying an Israeli passport or any other passport bearing an Israeli stamp from entering their borders.

“I worked with the Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese authorities so that the delegation would be allowed to travel by land and enter Lebanon for the first such congress being held for the Druze,” Jumblatt told AFP on Wednesday.

Attending the congress were 840 delegates from 37 countries, including the United States, Argentina, Sweden, Ukraine and Australia, organisers told AFP.

“Communicating with Druze living abroad strengthens the Druze confession,” Aouni Khneifess, the head of the Arab-Israel delegation, told AFP.

Jumblatt, who will be hosting a luncheon on Saturday for all the delegates at his ancestral home in the Shouf mountains southeast of Beirut, said the aim had been “to reaffirm the Arab and Muslim identity of the Druze.”

He estimates there are no more than 200,000 Druze in Lebanon, a country of four million.

Syria is home to around 400,000 Druze, Jordan to some 20,000 and Israel to some 100,000, according to Jumblatt.

The Druze are an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Little is known about their religion which is extremely secretive.

Traditional Druze are recognisable by their white knit caps, handle-bar moustaches and black sherwals, or baggy trousers. Traditional Druze women wear long black dresses and white headscarves.

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