Syrian youths seeking to avoid mandatory military service by the regime usually flee to the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida where some regions are still outside the control of the regime.
The regime tried to take advantage of the situation by issuing in April 2021 a law in Daraa that grants men between the ages of 19 and 42 a one-year grace period, during which they may obtain an “administrative postponement” of their conscription.
It followed that with contradictory decisions against those exempted, such as a travel ban in May and later, an order to obtain a “travel permit” from military recruitment centers.
A member of the negotiation committees in Daraa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the youths soon rushed to obtain passports, allowing the regime to reap direct and indirect revenues from its decisions.
This, according to the source, led to an unprecedented crisis that, as always in Syria, created a black market and rampant corruption in the country’s Department of Immigration and Passports.
Youths wishing to obtain a new passport as soon as possible paid millions of Syrian pounds to flee the country.
People seeking to avoid conscription usually have two choices: flee the country through legal or illegal means, or escape to regions outside regime control.
One man in Daraa, who has rejected compulsory military service, said such practices emerged with the eruption of the anti-regime protests in the province back in 2011.
The phenomena even extended to officers who refused orders to quell the protests, he revealed.
Now, the circumstances have changed, he went on to say. He compared joining the military to one throwing himself into the unknown.
They may spend years in the military, he added, citing examples of service that stretched to ten years given the ongoing conflict in the country.
Given the situation, he said, it is understandable for youths to be at a loss. No future awaits them after spending years in mandatory service, “that is if they stayed alive.”
People seeking to flee Syria would need anywhere between USD 10,000 to 16,000 to reach countries of asylum. Some have taken the risk of selling their properties, cars and homes to raise these funds.
Activists in Sweida said mandatory conscription has created tensions between the regime and the people.
The tensions have reached such an extent that locals Daraa and Sweida are confronting regime forces that are calling up youths to enlist.
Armed groups that remain active in southern Syria are still to this day preventing the regime forces from forcibly taking youths to join the military.