President Bashar al-Assad and many of the senior figures in his regime belong to Syria's minority , but that does not mean Assad or his regime represent the Alawites.
The government is playing a dangerous sectarian game, pointedly targeting Sunni areas and practices for attack while shackling traditionally Alawite villages against joining the protesters. Meanwhile, it is trying to ignite Alawite fears and manipulate Alawite communities to act on those fears.
Given this, any instance of Alawite silence is difficult to interpret; it may indicate a lack of support for the revolution, though, on the other hand, it may even signify defiance of the regime.
Yet Alawites have by no means been silent – many have been active in the opposition – and the pro-democracy movement as a whole rejects claims by Syria's state-run television that it consists of religious fundamentalists seeking to replace the regime's ostensible secularism with an Islamist state.
The protesters' chants consciously emphasise national unity, such as: "One, one, one, the Syrian people are one." Now is the time for Sunni Syrians opposing the regime to step up to even greater solidarity with the Alawites.
I mentioned the regime's sectarian strategy to a cousin of mine inside who is active in the pro-democracy protests. Knowing that he comes from a strongly Sunni area of old Damascus, I held my breath for his response.
"We are all Syrians," he said. "We hugged each other, Sunnis and Alawites, at an activists' meeting yesterday."
But others still miss the point. "The Muslims are finally standing up to those Alawites," an elderly relative who left Syria in the 1980s told me on the phone.
"Bashar is Pol Pot, period," I replied. "He doesn't give a crap about Alawite anything. Most Alawites are impoverished and as oppressed as the rest of the population. The regime is only pretending to be defenders of Alawites, while shoving them out as camouflage."
Yet it's not just my elderly relative; mainstream media still repeats the tired formula of an "Alawite-minority regime". It is a formula that fits the regime's agenda.
By contrast, inside Syria, protesters are savvy to the regime's ugly game. A new generation of Sunnis and Alawites in Syria sees no difference: they are all suffering under brutal authoritarianism. Prominent dissidents, such as Dr Tamadur Abdullah and Wahed Saker in the UK, are publicly declaring that they are Alawites who stand against the power-monopolising ruling cartel.
Some prominent contributors to the cause of Syrian freedom, such as Dr Aref Dalila of Aleppo and mother-of-two Tahama Maruf, happen to be Alawite. On 16 March, Alawites participated in the vigil for families of prisoners of conscience, one of the trigger events of the revolution – and some of them were imprisoned for it.
Wahed Saker that the regime has barricaded the traditionally Alawite coastal villages with multiple checkpoints barring anyone trying to protest, and that these communities are threatened with dire reprisals against joining the activism.
Worse still, the regime has forced Alawites to be , such as the one in Salamia on 20 May. Four of seven major Alawite clans (Nuwaliya, Kalbiya, Haddadiya, Khayyatiya), nonetheless issued statements dissociating themselves from the Assads.
On 18 March, when more than 300,000 nonviolent protesters took to the streets in the country of my birth, a dam broke inside me. Like many Syrians abroad, I had long ago come to terms with my despair that Syria and its peoples would not emerge from under this dictatorship during my lifetime. Whenever a friend travelled there, I would say: "Give Syria my love," shaking my head if they suggested I might one day be able to go myself.
When I saw videos showing tens of thousands of Syrians pouring into the street that day, dubbed "Dignity Friday", I don't know where the sobs came from, but I wept so loudly. Desperately needing to talk to another Syrian, I phoned one who cared as much as I did about the news.
I could only gasp, "Syria! Syria! Syria!" over and over, but Rana understood it, all of it. We cried in each other's arms later, tears that I struggle to describe: neither joy nor anguish, but both; tears of release. Rana is Alawite; I am Sunni. Her folks and mine are miles apart, each behind their barricades of suspicion and historical resentment, but for the two of us, those barricades no longer exist.
And if anyone in the free Syria that is coming ever tries to target the Alawite community, I will bar them with my body and soul. That goes for Christians, Kurds, and any other ethnic or religious minority in Syria. "The test of courage comes when we are in the minority," Ralph Sockman says. "The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority."
I have not lived as part of a religious minority and an ethnic minority in the US for 39 years, slugging through the Federalist Papers on how to protect minority rights in a democracy, and learning the lessons of the civil rights movement the hard way as a Muslim American and an Arab American, to see any minority hurt in democratic Syria.
Civis Syrianus sum – I am a Syrian citizen.