The Alawites, also known as Alawis (ʿAlawīyyah Arabic: علوية), are a religious group, centred in Syria, who follow a very highly contested and controversial branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam but with syncretistic elements. Alawites revere Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib), and the name ""Alawi"" means followers of Ali (they are generally considered Ghulat). The sect is believed to have been founded by Ibn Nusayr during the 9th century. For this reason, Alawites are sometimes called ""Nusayris"" (Nuṣayrīyyah Arabic: نصيرية), though this term has come to have derogatory connotations in the modern era; another name, ""Ansari"" (al-Anṣāriyyah), is believed to be a mistransliteration of ""Nusayri"". Today, Alawites represent 12 percent of the Syrian population and are a significant minority in Turkey and northern Lebanon. There is also a population living in the village of Ghajar in the occupied Golan Heights. They are often confused with the Alevis of Turkey. Alawites form the dominant religious group on the Syrian coast and towns near the coast which are also inhabited by Sunnis, Christians, and Ismailis.Alawites have historically kept their beliefs secret from outsiders and non-initiated Alawites, so rumours about them have arisen. Arabic accounts of their beliefs tend to be partisan (either positively or negatively). However, since the early 2000s, Western scholarship on the Alawite religion has made significant advances. At the core of Alawite belief is a divine triad, comprising three aspects of the one God. These aspects or emanations appear cyclically in human form throughout history. The last emanations of the divine triad, according to Alawite belief, were as Ali, Muhammad and Salman the Persian. Alawites were historically persecuted for these beliefs by the Sunni Muslim rulers of the area.The establishment of the French Mandate of Syria marked a turning point in Alawi history. It gave the French the power to recruit Syrian civilians into their armed forces for an indefinite period and created exclusive areas for minorities, including an Alawite State. The Alawite State was later dismantled, but the Alawites continued to be a significant part of the Syrian army. Since Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970, the government has been dominated by a political elite led by the Alawite Al-Assad family. During the Islamic uprising in Syria in the 1970s and 1980s the establishment came under pressure. Even greater pressure has resulted from the Syrian Civil War.