Syrians React To Peace Prize Winners With Skepticism

Syrians seem unimpressed with this year's Nobel Peace laureate — the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international chemical weapons watchdog that is currently working in Syria to catalogue and destroy the Syrian army's stockpiles of poison gas. In the words of one activist in Damascus, reaction "ranges from pure anger to disillusion to sarcasm to black comedy."

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


Today's Nobel announcement was hailed in Washington and other Western capitals, but many Syrians say the prize hardly brings peace, as NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Beirut.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: When the Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to OPCW, the jurors cited the organization's extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons. But when the news of the award leaked, many Syrians, in comments on Facebook, said the honor was premature. The inspectors have visited only three sites so far. This could still be a failure, said one activist. The first video of the mission was released by the Syrian government this week.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

AMOS: A pro-regime station broadcast images of inspectors in hard hats tagging equipment in what looks like a basement lab. The Syrian government was quick to applaud the peace prize and even took some credit. A top official says it underscores the credibility of the Syrian government.

But Syrian activists, opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, were not impressed.

MASSOUD AKKO: (Speaking foreign language)

AMOS: It's as if Assad got the prize for giving up his chemical weapons, says activist Massoud Akko in a Skype interview. Many activists say they feel betrayed by an international community that's focused on weapons rather than victims. In a war that's claimed more than 100,000 lives, only 1 percent of the dead have been killed in chemical weapons strikes.

Today, in Aleppo, in a TV discussion on an opposition channel, a woman caller said she'd rather die by poison gas than pull her children out of the rubble after an air strike. The comments came in torrents all day on Syrian social media sites, reactions that range from anger, to disillusionment, to black humor.

The Nobel Committee recognized the bravery and resolve of the chemical weapons team working for the first time in an active war zone. But for Syrians who live in that war zone, the peace prize is unlikely to change much in their daily lives, says Syrian journalist Malik al-Abdeh.

MALIK AL-ABDEH: Absolutely, there is no peace. The presence of weapons inspectors really hasn't changed their reality all that much. As far as ordinary Syrians are concerned, it's the same death, same destruction, same displacement. The same nightmarish situation really hasn't changed.

AMOS: The Nobel Committee said change was possible, citing the arrival of the inspectors as an instrument for solving the Syrian crisis. But it was a tough sell for many Syrians who say the prize comforts the international community but does little for them.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Beirut.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.