Syrian Army: Where Are the Boys?

A report about draft-dodging as popular discontent grows over the regime’s abandonment of the families of injured or dead soldiers.   

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(Photo: The Syrian military service passbook which includes the granted deferrals. Syrian citizens must carry it all the time like an ID card in order to cross checkpoints - Latakia - 5-12-2015 [Basel al-Malla/Good Morning Syria]).
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“All I have left is my youngest boy and they want him to fight as well. They have no pity on his mother or father who’s been paralysed for ten years. They don’t care about us. They just want to send our children to death so that they can remain in power.”

div>(Latakia, Syria) The Asad regime is resorting to various methods and ploys to recruit young men forcibly and make them fight opposition forces, especially after thousands deserted military service. This has led the youth of Latakia to seek illegal means to obtain a military service postponement notice, particularly since the regime abandoned the coastal residents in spite of  their fight along its ranks.
Conscription is taking place differently, dragooning young men into the army by erecting random checkpoints (also known as flying checkpoints (al-hawajiz at-tayyarah)) and targeting areas filled with popular cafés and sport clubs that are usually crowded with youth. Hassan (1), a university student living in Bisnada, told Good Morning Syria: “Checkpoints got remarkably harsher in the last period and one must make sure to take all the necessary documents when leaving the house, like the military service passbook, the college ID card and the personal ID, in order not to be stopped at checkpoints. Sometimes, even the postponement notices are ignored and we are taken randomly.”
These checkpoints have beget new “professions” for officials at conscription offices who grant temporary military service postponements at outrageous prices. For instance, a six-month postponement costs 100,000 SYP (approximately 300 USD in the black market) and the price increases along with the duration. Another service provided by these “professionals” is exemption from enlistment: in order to have your name scratched off the reserve lists, you must pay around 500,000 SYP (1,300 USD). All this is done in utter secrecy through experts working as mediators or brokers between officers and those seeking postponements.
Forced enlistment reached the coastal region and its countryside in particular, sending their young men to battlefields. This was due to several reasons, namely the fact that the majority of these men are Alawites and most of them are helplessly poor. ʼUmm Ahmad, a mother of three boys, said: “We lost our husbands and children to a war we have nothing to do with, but we won’t take it any longer.” Then she wondered, crying: “Why do they send a boy to war against his will?”
“I have three boys. The eldest was shot in the foot about eight months ago and he won’t be able to walk normally again. My second child is fighting in al-Ghuta and I have a terrible feeling that they won’t let him come back unless he is dead or injured like his brother. All I have left is my youngest boy and they want him to fight as well. They have no pity on his mother or father who’s been paralysed for ten years. They don’t care about us. They just want to send our children to death so that they can remain in power,” the woman explained.
Simmering anger has increased after the regime turned its back on its combatants, who were taken in captivity by opposition forces, and evaded paying compensations to the families of the fallen. Twenty-year-old Mudar from Latakia is one of the soldiers who were injured during the combats around the Aleppo Central Prison on 22 October 2013. His foot was amputated due to his injury and he was sent back to Latakia. Madar has now resumed his university studies.
When asked about the compensations he receives for the incident, he said: “They promised me they would compensate for my injury and provide a prosthetic foot, but every time I ask about this they tell me: ‘There are many names ahead of yours. Your turn hasn’t come yet.’ I haven’t received any salary for almost four months now and I’m unemployed.”
The rising disgruntlement in pro-Asad regions was further exacerbated by the attention that the regime granted to the Russian pilot issue and to the recently-freed Lebanese hostages instead of taking care of its own people.

All names used are pseudonyms to protect the identity of the sources.