Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Syria: Arbitrary conscription 'aims to please the Russians'


Analysis: Syria's rounding up of young men to fight has reminded many Syrians of the dark days of Seferberlik, under the Ottoman Empire.
Damascus has been conducting a wide-scale conscription campaign over the past few weeks, which has reminded many Syrians of the Seferberlik conscription under the Ottoman Empire.

Syrians on social media have equated the campaign with those of the late Ottoman Empire, when authorities forced Arab youths to fight in the Balkan War and World War I - largely seen as little more than a death sentence.

"What is happening in Damascus today is very much like the stories we had heard from my grandfather about the dark days of Seferberlik," said Om Yahya, an old Damascus resident.
    The campaign has caused panic among families living in regime-controlled areas

"Back then, young men would be taken from markets and houses to the Ottoman battlefields and no one would hear from them again. The same thing is happening today in Damascus and we don't know which battlefield they're being sent to."

Opposition activists in Damascus have said that regime-allied militias have set up temporary checkpoints around Syria's capital, where youths are blackmailed into paying the militias in order to avoid being sent to the battlefield, however al-Araby al-Jadeed was not able to independently verify this information.

A correspondent for the pro-regime news network Damascus Now said that there had been a considerable decrease in the number of young men on the streets of central Damascus due to the conscription campaign.

"Public and private institutions have also seen a large number of absent employees who fear being conscripted," added the correspondent.

The campaign has caused panic among families living in regime-controlled areas, with some families preparing to move from those areas or send their young men to safer areas.

Russian evaluation committees

has learned that the regime's conscription campaign was spurred by the arrival of Russian military experts to Syria to evaluate the abilities of regime troops.

"The regime launched this campaign to round up the highest number of youths possible and send them to its military camps due to the arrival of Russian military committees who are evaluating the operational capabilities of regime forces," said an informed source.

"The decision to launch the campaign came from the presidential palace, and orders were given to send out military police and military intelligence patrols to gather the largest number of people between the ages of 19 and 42 who are wanted for military service."

The men are then taken to military camps including the Dareej camp, which is run by the Syrian army's Special Forces.

Syrian sources believe that the campaign will continue until the departure of the Russia evaluation committees, especially since Moscow's verdict will have a direct impact on the Kremlin's military strategy in Syria.

There have also been reports that Russia has threatened to abandon its airstrikes in Syria if regime forces continue to fail in making gains on the ground.
    Activists believe that Syrians are living through days that are darker than the Seferberlik days under the Ottoman Empire
Suffering in camps
Abu Fadi's son was arrested and sent to the Dareej military camp a few days ago, as the young man was returning home from work.

I visited my son at the camp. Their situation is dire and can only be compared to a Nazi camp," said Abu Fadi.

"The young men at the camp barely have anything to eat and no water and some of them haven't showered in a month. They spend their days in meetings and training to assemble and disassemble rifles," added Abu Fadi.

Abu Fadi told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the most surprising thing was the attitude of camp commanders - who did not want the conscripts to there and did not trust them.

"My son told me that the commander said: 'I don't know why they've brought you here. We don't trust you, and we're going to win without you. We know you're going to escape at the first opportunity and you might as well leave now'," said Abu Fadi.

Activists believe that Syrians are living through days that are darker than the Seferberlik era, as they have already lost more than 300,000 people - with more than a million wounded.

More than 12 million Syrians are either internally displaced or refugees outside the country, while some 75 percent of the Syrian people now live below the poverty line.

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