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Syrians attempt to bury the hatchet amid civil conflict

While the election is causing division in Syria, in many towns and villages, rebels and government forces are meeting face to face and trying to put the bitter past behind them.

DAMASCUS: Opposition groups in Syria have issued alerts to civilians to stay home and not participate in national election, amid fears polling booths could the target of militia attacks.

The opposition is boycotting Tuesday’s vote, which it claims is undemocratic and all but certain to see Bashar Al-Assad re-elected as president.

But while the election is causing division, in many towns and villages across Syria, rebels and government forces are meeting face to face and trying to put the bitter past behind them.

For two years Bilal Al-Hajji slept with his gun. As a soldier in the Free Syrian Army fighting against Syrian government forces, he couldn't take any chances.

The former truck driver, urged by the imam at his local mosque, lived the life of a rebel. His days were marked by violence and brutality.

Two years on, he has given up his gun in favour of reconciliation and a united Syria.

He said: "We are Syrian and we remain brothers consolidating with each other. We remain a family and we are friends together. We hope everybody responds to national reconciliation efforts because we have gained substantially from them."

He is not the only one who has turned his back on violence.

Another former rebel, only identified as Ziad, believed that the majority of rebel forces in Homs are pro-reconciliation.

The problem, he thinks, is external pressure from Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are supplying foreign fighters to prolong the conflict.

Many Syrians have given up hope of any international diplomatic solution to the civil war, taking it upon themselves to kickstart internal peace initiatives.

The Ministry of National Reconciliation is playing a key role in these efforts.

Muhammed Al-Omar from the ministry said: "As well as supporting civil initiatives, we process the files of detained, kidnapped and displaced people and provide legal amnesty for militants who surrender their weapons. The ministry seeks to avoid a military confrontation, working on the principle of ‘prevention is better than a cure’.”

As the war in Syria enters its fourth year, Syrians are looking for an international solution without recourse in the next round of Geneva talks. 

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