You Should Really Hear the Arab Perspective Before you Debate the Syrian Conflict

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: We're hearing a lot of different opinions on Syria as the American and Western debate over possible military strikes continues, but we haven't heard much about public opinion in the Middle East. Mai Noman is a producer for BBC Arabic television and she has been monitoring audience feedback on Syria for the channel.

Mai Noman: Actually this is one of the most polarized issues dividing the opinion of our Arabic audience. Many of the feedback that we are getting is that people are against the strike, fearing that it will only cause or lead to more violence in Syria and in the region. A lot of other comments as well are saying to us that this is the only possible way to end the conflict in Syria. The conversation is not only inside Syria, it is also across the region, mainly affecting the neighboring countries that is getting a lot of, a great influx of refugees, Syrian refugees, to their countries. So we'll find comments from people in Lebanon, people in Jordan and Turkey and Iraq, and especially those who are, live in Iraq, I think because many Arabs, or Iraqis, draw the parallel to what happened in Iraq to what might happen in Syria, and a lot of the comments that we're seeing coming from Iraq are giving advice to Syrians in how to best deal with a possible strike. One of the comments that came through said, you should stay home because these strikes are usually hit at night. If you are at home you are possibly in the safest place. Some other comments are saying stay away from government buildings so that you would avoid being hit in these strikes.

Werman: So there's some useful and practical advice about being in the crosshairs of a missile strike. Did you find any difference of opinion from country to country, either support or opposition, for a military strike, based on where people are from?

Noman: It's interesting. We've been trying to figure out if it was a regional issue or based on a sect of Muslims or depending on their religion, but actually, it was very varied. Again I would stress that a lot of comments that are coming show that people are worried, are afraid that this strike would only expand the struggle that is inside Syria.

Werman: Right, I was about to ask you, what kind of responses did you get from Syrians in Syria?

Noman: Inside Syria, what we found is that people who live in Damascus and somewhat pro the regime are defiant of the strike and say that life is fine for them and they're not very affected by this threat. We heard from other Syrians who are outside Damascus who said that they've seen their families panic, they go and buy all the food and necessary things that they might need in case of a strike.

Werman: Has there been one argument either pro or con military intervention in Syria that has really impressed you?

Noman: Yes, Marco, there is one Iraqi comment that is pro the intervention saying that military intervention might not be the solution, but it is the beginning of a solution. And we've seen comments saying there is no way you can achieve peace through killing more people, and on the other side, people saying you have to end this and the only way to end this is to respond to what happened with force.

Werman: That was Mai Noman, a producer for BBC Arabic television who's been monitoring audience feedback on Syria for the channel.