All parties to conflict in Syria using force to recruit young men

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A training camp for the Self-Defense forces of the Auto-Administration in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

DAMASCUS – Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, pro-regime army forces obliged civilians, especially young men and university students, to join the army’s ranks against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in the areas under the government’s control across the country, according to local sources.

Activists confirmed that the regime’s conscription law caused the migration of a large number of young people out of the country, while the rest fell victims to either arbitrary arrest or abduction. The conscription was imposed mainly by the Syrian army forces along with other armed groups in Syria.

Due to the regime’s heavily-installed barriers at the entrances and exits of the Syrian cities, many young people were hardly moving in the areas under the regime’s control. Also, the pro-regime forces used to interfere into the daily life of Syrian citizens, harassing them through electronic scanning for their security status.

Syrian regime’s security forces launched dozens of “arrest campaigns” in different areas across war-torn country in a bid to capture young men and transfer them to the compulsory military service. 

Arrest Nightmare

“When my son gets out of the house heading to college, I get caught up by ugly nightmares until his return,” Oum Ahmed, a mother of two young men, one of them lost his life in the war while the other is a University student, told ARA News in Damascus.

“I daily see how the regime’s troops at checkpoints are extorting, humiliating young people and sometimes beating them only because they did not join the Assad’s army forces,” she argued.

Young people beaten at army checkpoints

Once a young man passes near a pro-regime military checkpoint, he is being asked to show his Identity card along with his military documents, to make sure whether he is wanted by the security branches of the regime or the mandatory service.

However, the majority of young people have been arrested by the regime’s security forces either because they uttered with a political opinion or that someone has leaked fabricated reports on them to the security branches, according to activists.

Speaking to ARA News in Damascus, Isam Doumani, a University student, said: “It is really annoying, because you do not know who has pushed fabricated reports against you to the security branches at the University.”

“Young men are constantly facing the danger of being arrested by pro-regime forces in Damascus. The luckiest people are those who can travel abroad,” he argued.

Syrian forces blackmail citizens

In the regime-held areas, young men are vulnerable to blackmailing at the roadblocks installed by the Syrian army forces, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to ARA News on condition of anonymity.

“Army troops are also tearing up civilians’ identity cards if they refuse to pay them money, like bribes to let them cross a checkpoint.” 

“We protect you and your families,” a pro-regime security member shouted, asking for money. “Our salaries are not enough to feed our families!”

“Also, some soldiers hold deals with Taxi drivers to bring any passengers to pay money in a bid to avoid charges like terrorism,” Doumani told ARA News in Damascus.

“As the devastating war continues in Syria, many armed groups followed the regime’s strategy for obliging young men to join their ranks,” Doumani said, pointing out “the conflict could likely devour all segments of the Syrian society.”

Syrian Kurdish areas

In 2014, a “conscription law” was ratified by the legislative council of the Auto-Administration in northeastern Syria (led by the Democratic Union Party “PYD” and other allied parties).

The law stipulates “the duty of self-defense in the Syrian areas which fall under the rule of the “Democratic Auto-Administration”.

The law obliges families living in the region to send one of their 18-30 year-old members to the defense duty, which lasts for six months, either continuously or intermittently over one-year time.

Exempting the “disabled or sick” was mentioned in the law as well as exempting families whose members have earlier joined the PYD-linked forces of the Asayish, the Kurdistani Liberation Movement (KCK), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) or Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

On the other hand, Secretariat-General of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria officially rejected the “conscription law” and previously refused to join the PYD-led Auto-Administration in northern Syria. Moreover, it dismissed a number of its members who joined the Administration.

Hundreds of Syrian Kurds have been killed and injured during confrontations with radical Islamist groups and opposition actions across Syria’s north and northeast over the past ffive years. Subsequently, thousands have fled the Kurdish region into the neighboring countries or Europe.

ISIS-held areas

In April 2015, radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) issued a decision to impose conscription on young men in the cities of Jarablus, manbij, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, northern Syria.

The group’s conscription law then came into force two months later, and hundreds of young men started participating in the obligatory jihadi trainings, while those who refused to join or tried to escape have been executed on charges of “treason”.

“Dozens of young men were arrested by the ISIS Hisba police forces under the pretext of ‘violating the group’s regulations’ and they were accused of treason for fleeing conscription,” media activist Nasir Taljbini told ARA News in Manbij.

“ISIS considers the conscription law as a project aimed at ‘mobilizing Muslims for jihad against enemies of the Caliphate’,” an eyewitness told ARA News in Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria.

The law of conscription has caused a state of panic among civilians in Syria, especially those who have been trying to avoid participation in the armed conflict. The conscription imposed by the different parties to conflict in Syria has pushed thousands of young men to flee the country.

Reporting by: Jenny Jounyieh

Source: ARA News

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