Saturday, September 20, 2014

Syrian Refugees: Don't Renew the War

Matthew R. Steven, a researcher at York University in Canada, has a report at Syria Comment detailing the views of Syrian refugees in Irbid, The city is the second largest in Jordan and now hosts 160,000 Syrian refugees. Stevens emphasizes the difficulty of knowing the “representativeness” of opinions he sampled, but conveys opposition on the part of those canvassed to a foreign intervention that would renew the war. The refugees see the Free Syrian Army as weak and divided, a minor player alongside Assad and ISIS. These excerpts are about a third of the original:

Opportunistic sampling of Syrians living in Irbid has revealed greater diversity in political leanings than initially expected. Few report being staunch supporters of either Asad or the FSA. Irrespective of previous political hopes for Syria, many seem to be playing a pragmatic game of reconciliation—re-obscuring political affiliations in a preparation for rehabilitation with the regime. . . . 

There is little enthusiasm for a reinvigorated FSA making a new bid for power: Syrians canvassed are simply not in favour of another long phase of civil war fueled by further foreign influence. Political dreams are seen as waning in importance in the face of overwhelming desire to cut losses and restart lives—people yearn for careers, home ownership, marriage, children, all of which are near impossible for displaced Syrians in the current political climate in Jordan. Many are actively considering return in the short term, despite the risks. This is especially so for those who originated from areas such as Suwayda, which have already been reclaimed by SAA forces. Others talk of restarting lives in Damascus, though they cite the dangers of a life riddled with government checkpoints while carrying identification which associates them with the rebellious province of Dar’a.

While these findings can not be assumed reflect the desires of all Syrians in Jordan—notably they do not include residents of Zaatari, who are reported to be more staunch FSA supporters—I suspect that a concrete offer of amnesty from Asad, backed up by safe and successful reintegration of those who first repatriate, could spark large numbers of urban-based Syrians to return. Exhausted by the refugee experience, repatriated Syrians may constitute a major influence on the conflict sooner rather than later.

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Matthew R. Stevens, “Dreaming of Home: Syrian Refugees in Jordan’s Cities—Will They Be Repatriated?Syria Comment, September 16, 2014

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