The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity’s briefing, “Death of Dignified Return and Political Process,” presents the percpetions and attitudes of displaced Syrians regarding the prospect of normalization with the Syrian regime.

In the aftermath of the devastating February 2023 earthquake and amidst shifting geopolitical landscapes, the push towards normalization has ignited concerns and fears among the millions displaced by over a decade of conflict. This comprehensive briefing, built on the responses of 3500 displaced Syrians across Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon, sheds light on their overwhelming rejection of normalization efforts, the dire conditions they endure, and their longing for a safe, dignified future.

Key findings:

  • The most important conclusion of the survey is that vast majority of all surveyed displaced Syrians, in all locations, don’t feel settled in their current areas, do not have living conditions they would regard as worthy of a decent human life, but still would not consider returning under the rule of the Syrian regime.
  • Displaced Syrians overwhelmingly believe that the return to regime-controlled areas is not possible even if normalization with the regime by Arab countries takes place. Approximately 93% of surveyed Syrians stopped making any effort to go back to their original places.
  • Most importantly, 92% of surveyed Syrians said that normalization by some Arab and regional countries with the regime will not change their position regarding the return, and 92% of the surveyed Syrians said that they will NOT go back to their original areas even if a full normalization by the international community takes place.
  • The establishment of safe environment in Syria remains a pre-requisite for the return of 65% of the surveyed displaced Syrians, while the issue of the detainees remains a major concern for the vast majority of displaced Syrians, with 61% thinking that revealing the situation of the detainees and forcefully disappeared people is a pre-requisite of their return.
  • Huge majority of Syrians seems to be rapidly losing faith in a political solution. They, however, continue to insist on accountability and the vital importance of the fate of detainees.

SACD recommendations for international actors:

  • Publicly and categorically reject the idea of normalization with the Assad regime as a potential solution for the Syrian crisis specially the issue of refugees. Such approach will only result in more instability and displacement. This point is very relevant for the image of the main western and regional states stakeholders in the Syrian public opinion.
  • Firmly and publicly insist on the implementation of UNSC resolution 2254 (and other resolutions and mandates related to Syria, such as the “Geneva Communique” and UNSC resolution 2118) as the only path towards peace and political transition in Syria, not only to enforce international legitimacy, but also to reassure the Syrian people and regain their trust in the main international guarantors of the political track.
  • Avoid the launch or engagement in ad-hoc political initiatives that would inadvertently or purposely lead towards a partial or full gradual normalization of the Syrian regime which could undermine accountability for human rights violations and would further persuade displaced Syrians away from the idea of return and the political solution.
  • Support political initiatives in line with UNSC resolutions, emphasizing the need for the voice of displaced Syrians to be actively included in such initiatives and the political process as a whole.
  • Prioritize the de-politicization of humanitarian aid, focusing on the delivery of direct support to displaced Syrians both within and outside Syria. Prevent the use of humanitarian aid or early recovery programs for indirect normalization of the Syrian regime.
  • Shift the humanitarian aid paradigm in Northwest and Northeast Syria from its current reactive nature to more sustainability-centered programs that would achieve long lasting improvements in living conditions and would prevent future waves of displacement of Syrian IDPs towards neighboring countries and Europe.
  • Support projects and programs that would provide an impulse for good governance in Northwest Syria through cooperation with non-designated, nor sanctioned de-facto authorities that would lead to improved living and security conditions for Syrians in the area.
  • Maintain targeted sanctions on the Syrian regime. These targeted sanctions should persist and be enforced until significant progress is made in accountability for human rights abuses, and the establishment of safe environment for all Syrians through the effective engagement of all parties in the political process.
  • Enhance protection and support for Syrian refugees in the regional countries and Europe, ensuring their rights and addressing their needs to avoid further displacements.
  • Uphold international legal principles regarding Syrian refugees, particularly regarding the prevention of forced returns in neighboring countries, especially Lebanon, as well as in some European countries that have taken effective steps towards considering parts of Syria safe for the return of refugees.
  • Promote inclusive Syrian dialogue in the political process involving displaced Syrians and Syrian civil society.

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