In its Vision, the Syrian Women’s Political Movement noted the importance of “highlighting the plight of the Syrian youth who are being forced by the regime and other de facto powers to join the military struggle, and how this behaviour increases the disintegration and suffering in the Syrian society, especially among women.” Compulsory military service, whether in regime areas or in areas controlled by other de facto powers, has led to tens of thousands of deaths among young Syrian men, and forced hundreds of thousands of them to leave the country. Thus, Syria has been losing a great part of its human resources which are Syria’s greatest asset. Women, as a result, have had to assume greater burdens and suffer heavier losses.
All the warring parties in Syria still use young males as a cheap source of personnel for their war. Since the very early months of the revolution, the Assad regime has forced Syrian young men serving in his army to suppress the revolt of their own people, leading many of them to defect. These defectors faced a difficult choice between arrest, death or fleeing the country. Many of their families were subjected to different types of revenge and blackmail. Nowadays, young men avoiding conscription are living under constant threat of arrest making them unable to move, work, or have any form of interaction with government agencies, thus becoming a burden on their families at a time when they could be helping them out. A prime example of this situation is the governorate of Suwayda where thousands of young men refused to be conscripted, choosing to hide in their local areas. As they wait for the opportunity to escape the country, they have no jobs, source of income, or any prospect of a normal life in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the regime saw the people’s reluctance to send their sons to die in war as an opportunity to blackmail them and rob them of anything they might still have. Thus, the regime increased the value of the payment in lieu (paid to get an exemption from draft), while corrupt officials at the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces received bribes for providing similar exemptions.
In areas outside regime control, women suffer from deep insecurity as their hopes of any improvement disappear. Forced military recruitment is an ever present spectre haunting their children and loved ones. Yet, in certain areas, it might be the only source of income that some men can find amidst the dwindling options for work and a decent life.
The SWPM, through its continuing contact with Syrian women in different regions, believes that compulsory and forced military recruitment represents a real challenge and a source of anxiety for women and their families.
War was not the women’s choice but they still pay its price in full. As men are placed in situations where they might die in action, sustain a disability, or be forced to flee the country, women lose all hope of a safe future with their sons and loved ones. Their dreams of emancipation from the tyranny of governments and the male-dominated society vanish into thin air.
As we approach ten years of the Syrian war, whose weight is being felt by all Syrians, women of all backgrounds and affiliations are becoming more aware that a bloody military conflict is easy to start but extremely difficult to end. The most difficult challenge is to stand up, treat our wounds, dismiss despair, and denounce all the powers that want to drag our sons, brothers and loved ones into a war whose only beneficiaries are the warlords. Women believe that reaching a political solution is the only way to achieve a sustainable peace that guarantees a peaceful transition to a pluralistic and democratic country, where all Syrians enjoy full citizenship rights regardless of their differences. This is a demand that has always been present in SWPM’s papers and publications.