WASHINGTON, DC – President Bashar al-Assad’s fall is inevitable, but Syria’s subsequent collapse need not be. Syria’s sizable émigré community has so far remained far away from the devastation, waiting in cities like Paris and London to see where the political chips will fall. But, by taking a more active role, the diaspora can help to end the conflict at home – and to rebuild in its wake.
According to the Syria’s Ministry of Expatriates, more than 18 million Syrians – including Sunni, Christian, and Alawite professionals and business leaders – live abroad, largely in North and South America and Europe. Some left to pursue a better life or a better education; others established second homes abroad that have now become their primary residences. It is time that this community used its considerable means and influence to help shape Syria’s future.
Assad has managed to remain in power because of support from the security services and the Alawite minority, which fears marginalization or reprisals should Assad’s regime be replaced by a Sunni-dominated government. As a result, much of the Sunni majority blames the Alawites for prolonging the violence by blindly backing Assad, rather than using their social, political, and financial capital against it.
The diaspora includes many well-connected Alawites, some of whom have strong ties to Assad’s base of support and who could help to hasten the conflict’s end by encouraging more Alawites inside Syria to break with the regime. In doing so, they could lay the groundwork for a prosperous future for all Syrians.