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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Syrian army to demobilise conscripts who served more than five years on the frontline

The Syrian cabinet is planning to prioritise ex-servicemen for public sector jobs

A man sits in a street near destroyed buildings in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk southern Damascus. AFP
A man sits in a street near destroyed buildings in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk southern Damascus. AFP

The Syrian military has issued the order to disband some units after years of service, only the second such major demobilisation of soldiers since the start of the country's seven year civil war.

The order, carried by Syria’s state-run SANA news agency, says that conscripts who have served for more than five years and reservists who were recalled in 2013 will be released from active duty starting on Tuesday.

The Syrian government did not detail how many troops would be covered by the decision but the move comes just days after the director of the military conscription department said regime gains and the increase in numbers of fresh volunteers would soon allow the military to start demobilising long-serving soldiers across the country.

The Syrian cabinet is also planning a decree to prioritise demobilised conscripts and reservists for public sector recruitment, in an attempt to ease their reintegration into civilian life, the Syrian Law Journal, a legal database, reported last week.

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Syria’s government has recovered more than 60 per cent of the country over the past year, backed by Russian airstrikes and allied paramilitary groups. In April, it completed a campaign to clear rebels from areas surrounding the capital Damascus, leaving the northern province of Idlib as the last major rebel-controlled area.

The recapture of the Eastern Ghouta suburbs and other former rebel strongholds in the country has led to a boost in new conscripts for the Syrian army with thousands of young men who had not completed compulsory military service throughout the duration of the war entering service.

Syrian law requires 18 to 21 months of mandatory military service for Syrian men aged between 18 and 42. But the onset of the conflict in 2011 meant that anyone who was enlisted at the time had to stay on active duty, even if they have fulfilled their military obligations.

In June, the Syrian army demobilized a division of troops that were enlisted in 2010, after eight years on the frontlines.

The latest decision by the Syrian army coincides with a social media campaign reportedly launched by conscripts and reservists calling for their release from service. Soldiers used anonymous Facebook and Twitter profiles to write posts criticising the government for keeping them in service for so long.

The National could not independently verify the authenticity of the posts.

Earlier in October, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad signed a decree granting amnesty to all those who accused of desertion, failure to follow conscription notices or failure to follow orders during the war.

SANA news agency said that the amnesty would only be valid if those wanted by the state handed themselves in within four months if they were in the country or six months if they were abroad.

Last week, the Syrian military issued a new circular discharging individuals called up for reservist military service and dropping penalties against those who dodged extra military duty. An estimated 800,000 men, both inside and outside Syria, are expected to be covered by the decision.