Our conversations with refugees have identified a key reason explaining why Syrian civilians have been fleeing the country en masse. Of course, issues of safety, joblessness, quickly rising cost of living, prospects for a better life, these themes all stand out. Yet for many it was the plight of the men. Over the past year, they were being pushed to re-enlist, or were being drafted either to serve in the government forces or side with the various local rebel groups. People felt pressed to make a choice. People described men in hiding, avoiding buses from which they could be snatched.
So men left first. One woman spoke about how “Syria was becoming a land of women.” And then the mothers started to fear for their sons who were ‘pushed’ to serve even though they were barely 16. Once the men left, many families decided to take the difficult journey in the hopes of quickly reaching their destination and re-uniting with their loved ones.
It appears that a large part of the Syrian population does not really want to take sides in this conflict. Disillusioned and lied to by both sides they are not willing to be drawn into a fight that in the end does not seem to be capable of restoring normalcy, safety, and peace in a land that they all love and are so sad to leave behind. It does make one wonder about how this decision by the population will affect the war’s outcome in the end. What could peace look like and what would the new Syria really have to offer to draw back those who have now left hoping for a fresh start?