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Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want

  • Daniel Howden
| June 13, 2017

While many parties to peace talks over Syria pay lip service to what the Syrian people want, most feel free to interpret their will. This is what makes the work of Kristin Fabbe and her colleagues Chad Hazlett and Tolga Sinmazdemir so important.

During the summer and fall of 2016, the trio of assistant professors from Harvard Business School, UCLA and Bogazici University in Turkey, respectively, conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,120 Syrians in Turkey, the country with the largest population of Syrian refugees.

The survey was carried out in Istanbul and in three Turkish provinces that border Syria: Gaziantep, Hatay and Sanliurfa. Great pains were taken to randomize the selection of respondents, choosing urban areas with heavy concentrations of Syrian refugees.

Fabbe said that respondents were diverse in terms of age, profession, ethnicity, language, sect and region of origin. Similar efforts were made to vary the sample with regard to when refugees fled Syria so as to get a range of experiences from different phases of the war. About 40 percent of the sample consisted of female Syrians.

Refugees Deeply: Why is it important to survey Syrians outside of Syria? In which forums would you hope that your results might have an influence?

Kristin Fabbe: For three main reasons: First, although political settlements that end civil wars are principally struck by political and military elites, a durable peace requires the willingness of the civilian groups both inside as well as outside Syria to embrace the terms of these political settlements. Second, about 90 percent of the Syrians we interviewed plan to return to Syria when the war is over. About 85 percent of them have family members in Syria, and an overwhelming majority of them continue to follow the news in Syria. In short, the Syrians we interviewed consider themselves part of the country’s future, and continue to be engaged with their home country.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Howden, Daniel.“Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want.” News Deeply, June 13, 2017.

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