Though it has been claimed that Syria’s refugees have fled the country to get away from its leader, poll results and other statistics indicate that Syria’s president still remains wildly popular in the country. His most recent re-election saw him win a whopping 88 percent of the popular vote.
In the badly damaged Al-Shaar neighborhood in East Aleppo, returnee families and displaced residents receive UNHCR relief assistance at a distribution point run by the Al Ihsan Charity in March 2017. (Photo: UNHCR/Hameed Marouf)
DAMASCUS (Analysis)– Crucial to the Western narrative of the Syrian conflict is the assertion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator who has taken to killing his own people over the course of Syria’s six-year-long conflict. This allegation has been the crux of the “humanitarian” justification for foreign military intervention in Syria that would seek to depose Assad’s government, a justification frequently used by the U.S. and its allies prior to an invasion or the toppling of an extant regime.
While this narrative has been pervasive in media coverage of the Syrian conflict, it is now being debunked by the very Syrian refugees that the media purported were fleeing Assad in the first place. According to a recent statement from Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 440,000 displaced Syrians who remained in the country have returned to their homes since the year began. In addition, 31,000 refugees in neighboring countries also returned to Syria in the first half of the year, with 260,000 having returned to Syria from other nations since 2015.
Though Mahecic noted that these refugees represent only a “fraction” of the five million Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries, what is notable is that nearly all of those who have decided to come back are settling in areas of Syria controlled by the government or where the Syrian government has made major territorial gains against ISIS and US-backed militants like al-Nusra Front in recent months – namely Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus.
Even with the conflict in Syria still raging, thousands of the displaced are eagerly returning to their homes under the control of the Syrian government. This may seem strange, as the U.S. media has long suggested thatmost refugees were fleeing Assad, not foreign-backed terrorists like Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Nusra.
Of course, this assertion was based on “polls” of refugees conducted by the Syria Campaign, a USAID-funded organization that has long pushed for U.S. military intervention in Syria.
This begs the question: why would refugees choose to return to territory controlled by the person they supposedly sought to flee, as the mainstream media portrays?
These latest figures from the UN suggest that many refugees were not fleeing their government, but rather the violence caused by a foreign-funded insurgency intended to topple the popular Assad government. As Middle East Eye noted in 2015, prior to the outbreak of the conflict, Assad was widely popular, though his popularity allegedly evaporated as the 2011 Saudi- and U.S.-funded uprising began.
A Syrian woman rides in a car painted in the colors of the Syrian flag with President Bashar Assad’s portrait in Damascus, Syria, June 3, 2014.
Did Assad’s popularity with the Syrian people ever really go away? Western media reports containing interviews with the handful of Syrians who support Assad as dictator claim it is so. But the evidence has long suggested that the majority of Syrians have continued to approve of their president throughout the conflict.
Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that the “popular uprisings” against the Assad government in 2011 were staged on behalf of foreign mercenaries largely backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – governments that have long sought to remove Assad from power. Assad’s popularity prior to the outbreak of violence likely remained unchanged after the fact.
Polling within Syria has consistently shown this to be true. Even polls funded by anti-Assad nations like Qatarhave also found that the majority of Syrians continue to overwhelmingly support Assad. Indeed, when elections were last held in 2014, the Western media could not hide the large crowds that came to vote, as the population re-elected Assad, who won with 88 percent of the vote. By contrast, voter turnout was 55.7 percentin the last U.S. Presidential election, suggesting that Assad has a stronger democratic mandate than U.S. President Donald Trump.
Six years into the conflict, video footage, and photographs clearly show that Assad and his wife regularly walk among the Syrian people in Damascus with little to no security detail. The Assads even drive their own cars – without security – through the countryside.