A Persuasive Peace: Syrian Refugees' Attitudes Towards Compromise and Civil War Termination

23 Pages Posted: 21 May 2018

See all articles by Kristin Fabbe

Kristin Fabbe

Harvard Business School

Chad Hazlett


Tolga Sinmazdemir

Bogazici University; Washington University in St. Louis

Date Written: April 30, 2018


Civilians who have fled violent conflict and settled in neighboring countries are integral to processes of civil war termination. Contingent on their attitudes, they can either back peaceful settlements or support warring groups and continued fighting. Attitudes toward peaceful settlement are expected to be especially obdurate for civilians who have been exposed to violence. In a survey of 1,120 Syrian refugees in Turkey conducted in 2016, we use experiments to examine attitudes towards two critical phases of conflict termination - a ceasefire and a peace agreement. We test the malleability of refugees' attitudes to see if subtle changes in how these processes are framed or who endorses them can render a ceasefire proposal more or less favorable, or produce attitudes that are more or less open to compromise with the incumbent regime of Assad. Our results show, first, that refugees are far more likely to agree to a ceasefire proposed by a civilian as opposed to one proposed by armed actors from either the Syrian government or the opposition. Second, we find that merely describing the refugee community's wartime experience as suffering rather than sacrifice increases willingness to compromise with the Syrian government to bring about peace. This effect remains strong among those experiencing greater violence. Together, these results show that even among a highly pro-opposition population that has experienced severe violence, attitudes toward willingness to settle and make peace are remarkably malleable, depending on factors such as who proposes a deal and how wartime losses are characterized.

Suggested Citation

Fabbe, Kristin and Hazlett, Chad and Sinmazdemir, Tolga, A Persuasive Peace: Syrian Refugees' Attitudes Towards Compromise and Civil War Termination (April 30, 2018). Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 18-049, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3182484 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3182484

Kristin Fabbe (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Chad Hazlett

UCLA ( email )

405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
United States

Tolga Sinmazdemir

Bogazici University ( email )

34342 Bebek - Istanbul

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

Seigle 259, Campus Box 1063
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-9353534 (Phone)

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