PHOTO: President Assad with regime soldiers in Homs, March 2013
A group of Syrian regime soldiers are speaking up about their concerns over enlistment, which has extended to six years and shows no signs of ending.
The troops have established a Facebook page, “Demand to Discharge Group 102 from the Syrian Arab Army”.
One of the soldiers, “Ali”, told Syria Direct of his experience when he began his mandatory military service.
Ali was then a 22-year-old law student. He expected to spend 18 months in the armed forces before pursing his career.
But Ali and his comrades are still enlisted, with no prospect of release. He says:
We have the right to be discharged. We just want our voice and the voice of every soldier who has [served] for more than five or six years to be heard.
Formed in 2014, the Group 102 page and Facebook group have a combined following of more than 13,000 users.
Ali says some who contact the page “are brothers in arms who pass along their complaints and concerns”. Others accuse the soldiers of treason.
But the insults are minor compared to conditions in the army. Last year, one of Group 102’s members publicly complained about “the food for an entire day: three pieces of bread…a potato (not at all moldy) and an egg….Thank God for everything, thank you my homeland, thank you for giving to us as we have given for the homeland.”
The pay of SP25,000 (about $132) per month is only half of that received by militiamen in the National Defense Forces, formed in 2012 to supplement the overstretched army:
Our salaries only get us through half a month. There are married soldiers who have to pay rent, and it isn’t cheap. Abject poverty is the worst nightmare that we face.
It’s also been impossible to continue our educations. Some of us enlisted before finishing our studies in the hope of serving and studying at the same time, but since the war broke out this has been impossible.
We also spend long periods away from our families, and sometimes can’t contact them.
there are just five days of leave every six months, compared to rest “every month or so” for the militia. The only way out is through “bribes or connections” for a discharge.
Our requests are falling on deaf ears, which in a sense has led to the marginalization of the Syrian army….No official has contacted us.
Ali concludes, “My ambition used to be to finish studying law at the university, marry and build a family. Now, I just want the war to end.”