BEIRUT (Reuters) – Only four percent of Syrians believe Islamic State insurgents, who have captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq, represent their interests, according to research conducted by a British polling group published on Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 1,014 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that about one in three Syrians believe President Bashar al-Assad and his government best represent Syrians’ interests.
“This (research) is a unique insight into public opinion in Syria … They don’t believe the extremist groups best represent their views,” said ORB Managing Director Johnny Heald.
Syria’s three-year-old civil war began with pro-democracy protests but the Assad government cracked down hard on them, leading his opponents to take up arms and to become increasingly radicalised.
This year the rebel groups have been sidelined by fighters of the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, who execute Shi’ite Muslims and have enforced a strict interpretation of Islam in areas they control that has angered and horrified many civilians.
The Islamic State, previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also wants to erase national boundaries from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and return the region to a mediaeval-style caliphate.
Assad’s forces have managed to hold on to the capital Damascus and strategic areas along the coast.
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