The Syrian government has threatened to seize the property and assets of ‘military evaders’, namely Syrian refugees outside the country and internally displaced people, who fail to pay exorbitant fees to be exempted from military service.
In a video interview conducted on February 2nd 2021 by Syria’s Ministry for Media and Information, Colonel Elias al-Bitar, head of the army’s Exemptions and Reserves Branch, said "The military judiciary will prepare notification notes to seize money and property from citizens over 43-years old who have not paid the exemption fee.”
In the interview, Al-Bitar referred to an amendment in article 97 of Syria’s Military Conscription Law, according to which the Syrian government is allowed for the immediate confiscation of assets, without notice, for Syrian men who haven’t served in the military. The article requires the payment of $8,000 to be freed from the obligation of mandatory military service within a period of three months from the day they turned 43, which is the age limit for conscription.
According to the law, the government can also seize the assets of wives, children, and other immediate relatives of the person in question until the source of those funds is verified, although mandatory military service applies to men only. In addition, the individual in question isn’t given an opportunity to challenge the decision.
Al-Batir said "There are strict laws that no citizen can evade, the state can seize his property and money, the money of his parents, wife, relatives and anyone related to him.”
In a statement condemning the law, Human Rights Watch’s Sara Kayyali said “This is only the latest in a series of laws and policies designed to punish perceived political dissidents and Syrians who fled.”
“Many men have fled Syria to avoid military conscription, which not only involves risk of death but also promised involvement in egregious human rights abuses that have stained the Syrian Armed Forces’ actions since the start of the conflict,” Kayali said.
“Many refugees do not have the means to pay fines for evading conscription. Syrian refugees, most of whom are in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, are enduring unprecedented harsh economic circumstances, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on economies that already largely marginalized refugees.”
Read the Human Rights Watch statement here.
Egregious fees to be exempt from military service
As reported by Middle East Eye, late last year Assad’s government amended the Military Service Law introducing fees for Syrians to be exempted from military service. The law specified different amounts according to the number of years they have resided abroad.
According to law, Syrians who spend one year, two years, three years or four years abroad are asked to pay $10,000, $9,000, $8,000 or $7,000 respectively to get an exemption from mandatory military service.
The law also introduced a fee of $3,000 for those who serve in fixed positions in the military and seeking exemption. Read more in Middle East Eye report here.
Northeast Syria under SDF control: Young people suffering from conscription
Meanwhile, a recent article by Al-Monitor reported about the ongoing conscription campaign in northeast Syria which is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces. The article explained the hardships young men in Deir ez-Zor, a province in northeast Syria under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces, are going through due to mandatory military service. Interviewing residents of the region, the article said “young men are staying home for fear of arrest, forgoing daily wages and delaying grocery purchases to avoid passing by checkpoints.” Read the full Al-Monitor article here.
Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) also reported that Syrian Democratic Forces, controlling northeast Syria, have arbitrarily dismissed nearly 550 teachers from their jobs due to their refusal to forced conscription. SNHR also reported that since the beginning of 2021, Syrian Democratic Forces have arrested or detained at least 61 teachers some of whom for reasons related to refusing forced military service.