Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, 5.6 million Syrians left their country and struggle to get by in neighboring countries, particularly in Turkey. It would probably be wrong to say the war-torn country’s 13.1 million remaining population are living in good conditions since 6.6 million of them are internally displaced.
These well-known grave statistics actually point out a prospect for Syria: well-educated generations that might become the pioneers for the reconstruction of a devastated country. This fact reveals the necessity of the return of displaced Syrians in order to find a political solution to the conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands civilians' lives in the last eight years.
Speaking at last week’s conference on Syria at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Ankara, Labib Al Nahhas, the co-founder of the Syrian Association for Citizens' Dignity, said that the largest population group that needs to be politically represented in Syria is the millions of displaced people. Emphasizing the significant numbers of internal or external migrants, Nahhas said 64% of Syrians are not currently living in the territories controlled by the Bashar Assad regime. He also stressed that 94% of Syria’s remaining population have been complaining about corruption and 84% of Syrians do not think returning to Assad-held areas is a good idea.
While interpreting the data provided by Nahhas, one can clearly see that the return of the young, well-educated population to Syria holds greater significance than billions of dollars when it comes to the reconstruction of the country. Moreover, the representation of Syria’s multiethnic and multicultural population in the political arena remains a crucial issue.
Another speaker of the conference, Rami al-Dush, the president of the Tribes and Clans Council, stressed that this multiethnic and multicultural mosaic had lived together until it was destroyed by the Assad regime. Emphasizing that Syrians attach great importance to their country’s territorial integrity, al-Dush said Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring launched to end the presence of the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria was crucial in this respect. He also underlined that Arab, Turkmens and Kurdish groups see unity and supporting Turkey’s operation as the only ways to put an end to the persecution they have suffered at the hands of the PKK and Daesh.
Syrian Turkmen Assembly President Muhammad Vecih Cuma also emphasized the deteriorating conditions the Syrian population has to live in due to corruption and oppressive policies, such as the YPG attempting to make demographic changes in northern Syria by destroying Turkmens and Arab villages.
All these remarks show us that Syrian people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds including Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis and Alawites demand security, lands and honor back. Terrorist groups such as Daesh and the PKK, as well as the Assad regime, have destroyed families, houses and the honor of hundreds of thousands of people. Today, war-weary and grieving Syrian people fully support any initiative toward a political solution because they believe that Syria will rise again with the efforts of newer generations who will return to their homes. They also believe that all the powers who pursue their own benefits instead of Syrians' should leave the country, which has become a location for proxy wars carried out by terrorist organizations. Maintaining territorial integrity, preparing a constitution with equal representation and free elections remain crucial issues for the Syrian people.
In this regard, Turkey’s plan for a safe zone has great significance. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will come together with German, French and British leaders in London in early December. Turkey has been exerting efforts for Syrians for eight years now; currently hosting 3.6 million refugees, it has already taken an important initiative to facilitate their return via several anti-terror military operations. This get-together in December will be a good opportunity to see whether Germany, France and Britain will actually pursue this goal as well.
After eight long years, Syrians have run out of patience and can’t bear any more pain. It is now time to give Syrians their well-deserved honor back.