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Ending Sectarianism in Syria

How to Secure a Lasting Peace

Free Syrian Army fighters in the southern Idlib countryside, September 2014. Khalil Ashawi / Reuters

As peace talks resume in Geneva, one thing is clear: Syria will need to address sectarianism if it is to succeed. Syrian sectarianism is often presented as insoluble, derived from age-old divisions, and impossible to control or contain. But new research suggests that it may not be as intractable as it seems.  

In 2015, the Brussels-based nongovernmental organization The Day After surveyed 2,500 Syrians about their attitudes toward sectarianism. Forty researchers conducted face-to-face interviews across Syria—the most extensive study of its kind.

Some of the results were surprisingly positive. Nineteen percent of respondents, including 24 percent of women, said Syria has no sectarian problem. Sixty-two percent said they considered themselves “slightly sectarian” or “not sectarian at all.” A large majority—more than 80 percent—rejected the suggestion that sectarianism in Syria is “an old problem and cannot be solved.” And 65 percent said the most appropriate form of government to eradicate sectarianism would be

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