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The growing problem of Syrian refugees
The growing problem of Syrian refugees
Our guest is Andrei Sushentsov, a lecturer at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and we are talking about the issue of Syria and the refugee problem.
In any area that has strife and war, there is always the issue of refugees. What is the situation right now with the Syrian refugees in Lebanon?
The situation with Syrian refugees is probably not that severe as it has been depicted in the mass media. We currently have about 12,000 of them in Turkey. Most of them are from the northern regions of Syria and are currently located in five big camps on the Turkish territory. The problem is probably that some of the Syrian military are going after devotees from military factions, following them up to the Turkish border. That makes the situation more daunting and creates this mass media effect.
Does the issue of refugees spilling over into Lebanon and other countries make the region more unstable in any way?
Yes, especially on the border between Syria and Iraq. As we know, people from Iraq go to Syria across that border. I also know that raises concerns about the aggravation of the situation itself. But I think that, out of 20 million Syrian citizens, there won’t be a great number of refugees among them, just 20,000.
With the Arab Spring — others call it uprisings and yet others call it «rebels fighting dictators» — what do you see as a period when things will come down? Or will this region be in turmoil, because so many countries have protested against their leadership?
What are the perspectives of this situation calming down? I don’t see any plans to ease it. I feel that the situation will be stabilized in Syria and Yemen. Those protests will not settle down. We know that in Egypt people have again come to Tahrir Square, now protesting against the rule of the current regime. I think the understanding of the goals that people participating in these uprising have are not very clear. They want to live better but usually understand it in terms of ousting their current leader. And that’s not usually the case with this situation.
In each separate country they have different problems. In Egypt, they had an uprising and the protests basically got rid of Hosni Mubarak. But in Syria and Libya we have the situation when the heads of state are not leaving. They are staying. Do you see this as a major issue, when it comes to peace in the region, when the leaders don’t leave?
I think that all those situations are quite different from one another. It is sure that these uprisings came as a surprise for every regime in the region. Currently they are trying to settle things down without major changes. I think the situation in Libya was particularly important, because it developed in a quite unusual way — Gaddafi didn’t want to resign. But I want to highlight that those guys in Benghazi have a very bad reputation with the Arab world. They are perceived as people who have accepted the Western help and the situation moved in the direction of internationalization of this internal conflict. That’s why Syrian opposition currently doesn’t want any foreign military forces or foreign intervention. They feel they can manage it on their own. Understanding that there are 3 million of them at the moment opposing the ruling regime and participating in the uprising makes them feel strong. I think that everybody in the Arab world doesn’t want any direct foreign intervention in the conflict, either politically or militarily.
What about the use of humanitarian aid to the refugees and to people affected by the protests. Should Syria open its borders — and to my understanding it has — but should there be more input from other countries to make sure that the people affected by the protests are taken care of?
I think there is a direct fault of any foreign aid. If it is distributed unilaterally to one of the sides, it will be perceived in the wrong way. People there understand that if anybody from another country is giving help in any form to one of the sides, they will perceive it as a direct signal of support. And the trouble that it won’t bring peace either to Libya or Syria.
Given that there is some much unrest in the Middle East, let’s take a look at Egypt briefly and talk about the Muslim Brotherhood. Do you see it as the dominant party in Egypt?
No, this party is not dominant. It has political will inside it. It will receive the majority of seats given its potency. But I think that the threat coming from this party is exaggerated. The militants present a real danger, not the party by itself. I think what they should understand about themselves, and what other countries should understand about the situation is that they have the ability to settle this issue on their own. They currently have a difficult situation in terms of general order and they can discuss the future of the regime by themselves. It can have some elements of Islamic brotherhood but it will not influence their position.
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