Syrian President offers amnesty to army deserters

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SHAFAQNA – The Syrian government has declared an amnesty for men who deserted the army or have avoided military service, giving them several months to take advantage of the amnesty without facing punishment.

The fear of conscription, and potential punishment for ducking it or for desertion, is frequently cited by aid groups as one of the main reasons refugees give for not wanting to return home, Reuters reported.

In a decree issued on his social media feeds, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said the amnesty covered all punishments for desertion inside or outside Syria.

Men inside Syria will have four months to take advantage of the amnesty while those outside will have six months, the decree said.

Under Syrian military law, deserters can face years of prison if they leave their posts and do not report for service within a set amount of time.

Since the Syrian civil war officially began March 15, 2011, families have suffered under brutal conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, torn the nation apart, and set back the standard of living by decades.

More than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria — as internally displaced people (IDPs). Half of the people affected by the terrible results are children.

In 2018, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled fighting in other areas to the relative safety of the northwestern region, world vision reported.

Lebanon says 50,000 Syrian refugees, among the more than a million it says are on its soil, have gone home voluntarily in assisted returns this year.

Amid the rising rhetoric, the realities for Syrians in Lebanon is stark. UN figures show 74% of refugees do not have legal residency, 76% live below the poverty line and more than 300,000 children are not in school. Feeling squeezed and hopeless, a steady stream are returning regardless of the danger, The Guardian mentioned.

Many soldiers deserted, some to join opposition groups and others to escape the fighting. More than half the pre-war population fled their homes. About five million went abroad and millions of others were displaced within Syria.

While the amnesty covers desertion, it does not cover fighting against the government or joining the opposition, who are regarded by the Syrian government as terrorists.

However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says conditions have not yet been fulfilled for mass refugee returns. Speaking in Beirut in August, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said refugees were concerned about conscription, as well as other issues such as the lack of infrastructure, Middle East Monitor reported.

 

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