Aug. 7, 2015 by Darius
It is an oft-repeated claim (and not necessarily false) that there is no military solution to the Syrian civil war, that the parties must ultimately agree on a negotiated settlement. The people saying this, though, are almost never actually Syrians. What do Syrians think of the idea of a negotiated settlement? More specifically, who do they think could represent them at negotiations? A recent poll sheds some light on these vital questions.
The survey, conducted by a Syrian NGO called the Day After Association, was conducted with a sample of more than 2,500 Syrians in regime-held areas of Syria, rebel-held areas of Syria, and refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. While the sample is not representative of all Syrians, it does provide an excellent window into what Syrian public opinion is concerning a prospective deal.
The poll’s findings are disheartening, to say the least. Barely half of respondents thought negotiations would be able to end the conflict at all. When it came to specifics, Syrians were deeply divided over who might be able to speak for them during potential negotiations. Only 16.1% of Syrians nationwide felt the Syrian regime could represent them in negotiations. Even in regime-controlled areas, fewer than 40% of people actually supported the regime. The main secular opposition group, the Syrian National Council, did better, but only just: according to the poll, 16.9% of Syrians feel the SNC could represent them. Even in areas the SNC controls, though, an abysmally low 19% of Syrians felt this way. Not surprisingly, polling could not be openly conducted in ISIS-held areas of Syria.
Perhaps most disturbing was the poll’s finding that more than a quarter of Syrians across the country either don’t know which group represents them and their point of view or don’t feel that any group represents them. This segment of the population is at best a wild card and at worst a ticking time bomb in Syria’s bleak future. A society cannot function without the input and representation of a quarter of its constituents.
Nearly half of Syrians blamed a lack of international interest for the failure of previous negotiations. That can be a starting point. If the world gets serious about a negotiated end to Syria’s war, perhaps then Syrians can too.
For more, see “What Syrians Actually Think of a Peace Deal,” The Washington Post online, July 28, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/07/28/what-syrians-actually-think-of-a-peace-deal/?utm.