A Persuasive Peace: Syrian Refugees' Attitudes Towards Compromise and Civil War Termination
23 Pages Posted: 21 May 2018
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.
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