The constitutional culture of youth in northern Syria. (English)
One of the initial demands allied to the 2011 Syrian revolution was for constitutional reform, followed in 2012 by demands for a new constitution and the formation of a constitutional committee, with the idea that “writing a new constitution for Syria” was an entry point to a political solution to the Syrian conflict. This study aimed to explore the reality of constitutional culture amongst youth in non-regime areas of NW Syria, currently under Turkish influence and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib, in order to gauge levels of engagement with and knowledge of the current constitution, the influences and reasons behind engagement or lack of, and what that means for their future identification with a new constitution. In view of the wide scope of the research demographically and spatially, we limited this study to a sample of 20 both female and male youths (10 of each) aged between 20-30 years, who grew up during the revolution in areas outside the regime’s control, as a result of which they should have a particularly important stake in the development of constitutional culture in Syria. A qualitative approach was adopted in the form of semi-structured interviews deemed to be sufficient to answer our research questions as well as being achievable within the available timeframe, with data subjected to thematic analysis. Study findings revealed that the majority of respondents had little or no knowledge of the constitution and although there was a general culture relating to constitutional principles such as freedom of opinion and expression, equality and equal opportunity, they were not aware that they formed part of the constitution. They also had a very limited understanding of what constituted the structure of the state. Those from the Turkish influenced area were marginally more informed than the Idlib sample, including on Turkish politics and the Turkish constitution and more open to principles of equality and freedom, with greatest interest in increasing their knowledge post study amongst male respondents. When asked about what should underpin a new constitution, responses were a mix of national, religious and sectarian elements. To ensure the development of a constitutional culture amongst Syrian youth it will be important to introduce awareness-raising programmes involving community leaders and civil society organisations to help develop engagement with constitutional related issues, a ‘constitutional culture. amongst youth.