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Regime Tightening Noose on Damascus Youth Under Pretext of Compulsory Service

The military police have stepped up their presence in Damascus city and its surrounding towns, implementing numerous "flying checkpoints" in pursuit of hundreds of young men who have evaded mandatory and reserve military service.
Regime Tightening Noose on Damascus Youth Under Pretext of Compulsory Service

Many youth in the rural areas surrounding Damascus are enduring a persistent tragedy that looms over their existence, enveloping their future in a fog of apprehension and uncertainty. This predicament has been exacerbated by the recent escalation of patrols by the Syrian regime in the region, targeting individuals sought for military conscription into its ranks.

Among these individuals is Hussam (24 years old), who finds himself caught between the Jdeidet al-Balad area of Damascus countryside. He is fearful of venturing beyond the confines of his home yet equally apprehensive of remaining there, a dilemma that presents him with two equally grim options.

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The military police have stepped up their presence in Damascus city and its surrounding towns, implementing numerous “flying checkpoints” in pursuit of hundreds of young men who have evaded mandatory and reserve military service.

Hussam shared with Syria TV his plight, confessing that he has been eluding conscription for four years now. He seeks refuge in the sanctuary of his family’s home and that of his relatives, perpetually shifting his location in anticipation of potential raids.

“I used to venture out only under the cloak of night. However, with the heightened patrols, I am confined to my parent’s residence, all the while trembling at the prospect of raids occurring in our town,” he lamented.

Hard days

Hussam’s situation serves as a representative example of numerous comparable scenarios across territories under regime control. This trend has given rise to a phenomenon where young men opt to conceal themselves from military service, a trend that has seen a notable increase in recent years. These individuals harbour deep-seated anxieties regarding the demands of service and the protracted duration it entails, coupled with apprehensions about being thrust into conflicts “where they have no stake,” as articulated by Mohammed, a twenty-something resident of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.

Mohammed’s formative years were spent amidst the siege of Douma from 2013 to 2018. During this time, he witnessed a mass exodus of fighters, activists, and their families toward northern Syria, an experience that firmly entrenched in his mind the notion of eschewing any association with the regime’s army.

Currently, Mohammed seeks refuge in one of the abandoned homes left behind by his displaced relatives. While previous security conditions allowed him to venture out and secure employment at a local food shop, he now navigates his days with trepidation, wary of encountering a “flying checkpoint” that could halt his movements at any given moment, a fear that weighs heavily upon him.

In Daraya, situated in the western Ghouta of Damascus, residents exchange information about the presence of flying checkpoints and nocturnal patrols. Despite assurances from civil sources within the city, stating that no directives have been issued to conduct home raids in search of wanted individuals, young men evading military service remain ensnared in a cycle of anxiety, fearing the prospect of impending raids or encountering checkpoints and patrols. This predicament has forced them to endure hardship, exemplified by individuals like Amjad (23 years old), who endeavours to embark on a journey towards Lebanon. However, the dense network of patrols presents a formidable obstacle to realizing this aspiration, a circumstance succinctly summarized by Amjad’s mother in her statement to Syria TV: “What compels you to taste bitterness is a decree from which there is no escape.”

Hundreds of hiding, and the number is expanding 

The magnitude of individuals concealing themselves in the Damascus countryside due to either lagging or defecting from the regime forces remains difficult to ascertain. However, the sheer scale of this phenomenon is considerable, numbering in the hundreds, with the potential to swell further. This escalation is fueled by the lack of clarity surrounding a resolution to the Syrian conflict and the absence of secure havens for these young men in neighbouring nations like Lebanon and Turkey. Compounding the issue is the expanding scope of refugee deportations, amplifying the sense of hopelessness in the face of diminishing prospects for a viable solution.

 

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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