Druze residents of the Golan Heights have appealed to United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a request that they be allowed to cast their vote in the Syrian presidential elections.
A delegation of Druze delivered a letter addressed to Ban to UN soldiers stationed at the Quneitra crossing along the border between Israel and Syria on Wednesday. They said that they were Syrian citizens and asked that voting booths be set up on the Golan.
The bearers of the letter openly declared their support for the incumbent, President Bashar Assad, who has been battling rebel forces in a civil war that has cost upwards of 150,000 lives over the past three years, Ynet reported.
“It is our right just like it is the right all Syrian citizens to take part in the Syrian presidential elections,” local Druze resident Ata Frachit was quoted as saying. “We are speaking on behalf of most the residents of the Golan, more than 80 percent want to take part in the elections.”
Western nations and opposition activists have lambasted the Syrian presidential elections as farce, since voting is only expected to take place in areas that are under government control. Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that Assad would face two challengers in the June 3 vote, but another 21 potential candidates were disqualified for unknown reasons.
Assad, who is seeking a third seven-year term, will face Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri, a 54-year-old lawmaker from Damascus, and 43-year-old Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar, a lawmaker from the northern city of Aleppo.
Unlike their coreligionists from the Carmel and Galilee regions who serve in the IDF, the Golan’s Druze have historically sworn allegiance to Syria ever since Israel captured the Heights in the 1967 Six Day War. Of the 20,000 Druze residing in the main villages of Majdal Shams, Mas’ade, Buq’ata and Ein Qiniyye, only a few hundred have accepted Israeli citizenship.
In recent months, however, citizenship requests have spiked several hundredfold, according to statistics provided by the Population, Immigration, and Border Administration. Most of the applications have been filed by Druze youth whose connection to Syria is generations distant, and whose perception of it has been marred by the bloody civil war.
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.