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Since Russia has recently announced they're withdrawing a part of their troops and most of the non-Kurdish regions are now under Assad's control, it's clear that the 7 year war is coming to an end with a clear victory by the ruling government party. This also means that peaceful (albeit poor) life is once again possible in Syria, at least within the government controlled territories.

Are there already any negotiations underway with Assad regarding the return of Syrian refugees back home? At the very least Turkey and Lebanon should be happy to finally absolve themselves of the gigantic refugee camps on their territories.

  • Comments deleted. Whether or not it makes sense to send refugees back to Syria is not the subject of this question. – Philipp Dec 23 '17 at 10:43
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    Comments on the lack of safety and on the extent of Assad's victory are highly relevant. The question makes some false assumptions, that it's simply an issue of poverty for example. You should have left some of the more appropriate comments that clarified the situation. – userLTK Dec 23 '17 at 15:37
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Refugees have been returning to Syria throughout 2017.

According to a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) report, quoted in a BBC article from 2017.06.30, 500, 000 Syrian refugees returned to their homes in the first half of 2017. Of those 440,000 were internally displaced and 31,000 returned from abroad. A quoted UNHCR spokesman said there is a “notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017.” He added that since 2015 260,000 refugees returned to Syria “primarily from Turkey.”

Source

A word of caution when looking for information about the Syrian conflict. The western corporate and publicly owned media’s reporting on this war is not impartial. To get a more accurate picture of what is unfolding in Syria it is necessary to consult sources that do not get much coverage in the dominant media.

The article I quoted uses information from the UNHCR so there is little room for bias to creep in. But not all articles are straightforward like this one. If a piece refers to “Assad’s army” or “regime forces”, rather than the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) or the names of the militia groups involved (eg. Liwa al Quds) it is almost certainly coming from a pro-regime change perspective.

If it refers to “terrorists” or “head-choppers” when talking about armed opposition groups (eg. the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham) it is almost certainly biased in favour of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian coalition. Reading between the lines is a must.

Just a heads up. Disregard if this is old news to you.

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Since Russia has recently announced they're withdrawing a part of their troops and most of the non-Kurdish regions are now under Assad's control, it's clear that the 7 year war is coming to an end with a clear victory by the ruling government party.

This statement overstates the extent to which the Syrian Civil War is over, or nearly over.

There are significant parts of Syria that are firmly under Assad's control. There are significant parts of Syria that are not under Assad's control. Assad asserts the right to control the entire country and is deploying his domestic military resources to do so. See this map (I can't figure out how to get a current version of it to post in this answer.) Eyeballing it, Assad's regime controls maybe half of the inhabitable territory of the country (some of the territory is a no man's land of uninhabitable desert).

One of the non-Assad factions in Syria, ISIS, is pretty much defeated. But, most of that territory was controlled by Kurdish factions and there are also non-Kurdish factions that control significant territory in Syria (while these areas look small on a map, the non-Kurdish rebel areas have high population density relative to much of the rest of the country).

Also, while Assad is recognized by Russia and some countries as the legitimate government of Syria, his regime does not have universal international recognition of its legitimacy by any means. You can't deport refugees to a regime that you don't recognize as legitimate and don't have diplomatic relations with, which is the case of the EU nations vis-a-vis Assad's regime.

There is an ongoing and active civil war in Syria that will not end until there is either a formal diplomatic partition of Syria between the factions that currently control territory there, or Assad (or some other faction) uses military power to control the entire country. Neither outcome is imminent. Until that happens, we are merely in a lull in the fighting, and no part of Syria can be considered truly "peaceful" in even the medium term of one to a few years.

As a historical comparison, the Taliban was a lot closer to controlling all of Afghanistan than Assad is in the case of Syria, when a U.S. intervention following 9-11 led to the complete removal of the Taliban from power and the establishment of a new regime that drew heavily on the warlords who were on their last legs fighting the Taliban when the U.S. intervened. But, a decade and a half later, Afghanistan is still not at peace, with the Taliban now playing the part of rebels. Indeed, Afghanistan is now still second only to Syria as a source of European refugees.

Thus, even if Assad gained nominal control over all of Syria's territory, an insurgency could persist for a decade or more, without a resolution in the form of a treaty or something similar.

This state of ongoing civil war makes it effectively impossible to repatriate refugees to Syria. Moreover, some asylum seekers would face persecution upon return no matter which faction ends up winning, because those particular asylum seekers are too strongly associated with whoever the eventual losers in the civil war will be. So, only a portion (not yet discernible) of the refugees will ever be eligible for return.

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    I'm not sure if Afghanistan is a good example to compare against. The Taliban are actually made up mostly from local tribes, and are not substantially financed or supported from abroad. Refugee numbers from Afghanistan saw a sharp increase after Germany's decision to switch to an open door policy, and are not useful as an indicator for local security situations. – janh Dec 23 '17 at 11:37
  • @janh No comparison is perfect, but you use the best comparisons you have available to estimate at order of magnitude level in the absence of better comparisons. There are certainly other examples of long lasting insurgencies (Tamil Tigers, Congo, etc.), but this seemed like one of the better ones. – ohwilleke Dec 27 '17 at 21:43

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