Displaced Loyalties: The Effects of Indiscriminate Violence on Attitudes Among Syrian Refugees in Turkey

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Kristin Fabbe, Chad Hazlett, and Tolga Sinmazdemir
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ESOC Working Paper No. 7

How does violence during conflict affect the political attitudes of civilians who leave the conflict zone? Using a survey of 1,384 Syrian refugees in Turkey, we employ a natural experiment owing to the inaccuracy of barrel bombs to examine the effect of having one’s home destroyed on political and community loyalties. We find that refugees who lose a home to barrel bombing, while more likely to feel threatened by the Assad regime, are less supportive of the opposition, and instead more likely to say no armed group in the conflict represents them – opposite to what is expected when civilians are captive in the conflict zone and must choose sides for their protection. Respondents also show heightened volunteership towards fellow refugees. Altogether, this suggests that when civilians flee the conflict zone, they withdraw support from all armed groups rather than choosing sides, instead showing solidarity with their civilian community.