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memri
July 22, 2019 No.
1466

Facebook Campaign By Syrian Army Soldiers Serving Since Beginning Of Syria Crisis: We Want To Be Released And Start Living Our Lives

By: O. Peri*

Recently, a Facebook campaign for Syrian Army soldiers who had been serving since the beginning of the Syria crisis, called "We Want to Be Released," has been revived. By law, Syrian compulsory military service lasts for 18 months; however, since the crisis began in 2011, almost no inductees and mobilized reserves have been allowed to end their service. In the campaign, inducted and reserve soldiers and their families are calling on the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad to allow them to build their futures and devote time to their families, as they have long since fulfilled their obligations to the state.

The campaign maintains several Facebook pages, including "We Want To Be Released – Reserves Class 104 of 2011/2012," "Demand for Release of Reserve Soldiers from Classes 104, 106, And 107 Of 2012," "We Are Entitled to Release – We Want to Live," "Reserves of the Syrian Arab Army," "A Soldier's Suffering," and others. Hashtags were also created, such as #we want to be released, #we want to live, #we are entitled to release, and so on.[1]

Some campaign participants wrote messages along these lines on the Facebook pages of regime supporters.[2] Additionally, many posted messages on the Facebook page of the Syrian presidency, calling on President Assad, who is also the army's commander in chief, to intervene. Some also wrote on an unofficial Facebook page of the Russian Hmeimim airbase in Syria asking the Russians to intervene on their behalf. The page responded that no one was being released at this time.[3]

As noted, this is not the first time Syrian Army soldiers are complaining about the duration of their military service. In 2017, there was a similar campaign involving soldiers drafted in 2010 who said that the lack of an end date for their service was harming their future career plans.[4] Also, in October 2018 President Assad ordered pardons and immunity from punishment for AWOL soldiers and reserve soldiers, evoking grumbling among regime soldiers who had already served for many years.[5] The following month, in response to these complaints, the army announced the release of commissioned and reserves officers who had served for five years. However, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, reported that this move did not apply to those previously inducted who were serving for even longer, but only to a few hundred soldiers. Thus, the rage in the ranks continued.[6]

It should also be noted that soldiers' ongoing army service may indicate a serious manpower shortage in an army that is completely dependent on Russian and Iranian military assistance for its battles against the rebels.

This report will present some posts by Syrian soldiers seeking to be released from the army.

Syrian Soldiers To Assad: We Have Earned The Right To Civilian Life

Several of the posts in the campaign appealed respectfully to President Assad himself, urging him to act to release the soldiers. For example, a post on a Facebook page called "We Want To Be Released" stated: "On my behalf, and on behalf of all the soldiers of the standing army and of the reserves who have not been released, I call on His Excellency [President] Dr. Bashar Hafez 'Ali Suleiman Al-Assad, commander in chief of the army and armed forces, to release all the reserves and standing army classes who were not released on time. May Allah lengthen your days as our leader. Oh Abu Hafez, leader of the world, we all love you and are willing to sacrifice our lives for your sake."[7]

Another post on the page was somewhat more assertive: "Mr. President... Behold your loyal hero soldiers of our Syrian Arab Army raising their voices, and all hope that Your Excellency will issue a decision releasing them [from the army] so that they will be able to begin their civilian lives, after fulfilling their obligations in the best way possible, without a single moment of negligence in defending our land and our honor, and some of them would sacrifice their lives and ascend [heavenward] as honored martyrs with Allah. Are not those who have completed their tour of duty in defending our land and our people entitled to rest, after this sacrifice? We want to be released. We again support their voices and demands and we are convinced that you, our father, brother, and leader, will not abandon them..."[8]


Poster featuring photo of President Assad as commander in chief and stating: "#We want to be released, #we want to live, #Men of the Syrian Arab Army, Class 109 [of 2011]" (Source: Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 14, 2019)

A Syrian named Hassan Suleiman commented: "Mr. President, the only thing we hope for is to actualize our legitimate right to [civilian] life, particularly when a soldier has a family of three, four, five, or six and a rented home."[9]

Many Syrian soldiers and their family members repeatedly posted a particular item on different Facebook pages. It read: "Mr. President, you are our only hope. We ask Your Excellency [to issue] an administrative order regarding [our] release. #We want to be released. #We are entitled to be released #Class 104, #Class 106, #Class 107, #Class 108, #Class 109, #Class 110, #Reserves mobilization 2012, 2013, 2014, #Born in 81, 83, 84, 85..."


Post shared on many Facebook pages: "Mr. President Bashar Al-Assad, you are our only hope..." (Source: Facebook.com/syriaihteat, July 14, 2019)

Frustrated Soldiers: "I Am The Oppressed Soldier Who Has No Rights In This Homeland"; "Are We Human Beings, Or Slaves?"

Other posts described the difficult situation of the soldiers and expressed bitterness and rage. One post contrasted the situation of a young Syrian who joined the army with that of a young Syrian who didn't: "When I was 21 I joined the army. When my friend was 21 he went abroad. I have been unable to marry all these years or even replace my mobile phone. My friend got married and now has two children. I cannot buy or rent a home... Those who went abroad live in stability and dignity or at least are not waiting for anyone's pity or compassion. I have given eight years of my life, whereas they paid a fee [to exempt them from military service] and are living full force. Who am I? I am the oppressed soldier who has no rights in this homeland. We no longer [even] want to be released, we just want someone to come and talk to us, to remember us. Enough! When will it end? How do we finish our service? By Allah, we are being treated with ingratitude. By Allah, the soldiers are in a very bad psychological state... Do you [Assad] regard us as human beings or as slaves?"[10]


Poster on Facebook page: " I am entitled to release" (Source: Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 15, 2019)

A Syrian named Ahmad Hassan responded: "We are the generation that people are angry at. We are the generation [of men] who have not seen or lived with their families, whose children were born and grew up while they were far away. We are the generation that has forgotten the meaning of dreams and a future. We are the generation [of men] whose greatest dream is now to be released and return to their families."[11]


Poster on "Reserve Soldiers of the Arab Syrian Army" Facebook page: "We are praying for release"[12]


Poster on "Reserve Soldiers of the Arab Syrian Army" Facebook page compares Syrian soldiers to Quranic/Biblical characters: "Job waited 18 years, Joseph waited 13 years, Jacob waited 13 years, Moses waited 40 years – and the Syrian soldier is still waiting."[13]

Children Of Syrian Soldiers: "We Want Dad To Be Released"

Many posts expressed the soldiers' yearning to see their families and especially their young children. For example, a post on the "A Soldiers' Suffering" page, apparently written by a soldier's parent, said: "We imbued our children with love for the homeland and for bearing arms until they matured and grew strong. They bore the Quran in their hearts, bore the flag and followed in the footsteps of their fathers, defending the might and honor [of our country]. But aren't our children entitled to be with us? Aren't we entitled to come back into their lives after all these years of absence? They have already been deprived of enough.[14] 

Syrian user Abu Yazen responded: "We reserve soldiers born in 1987 have been forgotten. We are entitled to release... Every inducted or reserve soldier that has been serving a long time is entitled to be released and return to his family, his home and his children. Let us live [our lives]."[15]

As part of the campaign many picture were posted on Facebook showing the children of soldiers holding signs calling for their fathers' release.

 
Left: "We want dad to be released"; right: "I want my dad, Firas, to be released, Reserves [Class] 2015" (Source: Facebook.com/syriahteat, July 10, 11 2019)


"I want dad to be released. Class 107, drafted April 1, 2011" (Source: www.facebook.com/22S1y1r1i1a2a2l3a3s3a3a1a1a1, July 8, 2019)

*O. Peri is a research fellow at MEMRI

 


[1] Facebook.com/tsreeh2; Facebook.com2012-2249736335240196; Facebook.com/22S1y1r1i1a2a2l3a3s3a3a1a1a1; facebook.com/syriaihteat; Facebook.com -1200239933409031

[2] See, for example, Facebook.com/Mahranahmad1982 and Facebook.com/damascus.news.99, July 5, 2019.

[3] Facebook.com/Russianmilitaryinsyaria1, July 1, 5, and 18, 2019.

[4] Alsouria.net, May 2, 2017.

[5] Enabbaladi.net, November 4, 2018; Nedaa-sy.com, November 3, 2018.

[6] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 5, 2018.

[7] Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 7, 2019.

[8] Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 7, 2019.

[9] Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 7, 2019.

[10] Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 5, 2019.

[11] Facebook.com/bdnantsarah, July 5, 2019.

[12] Facebook.com/syriahteat, July 14, 2019.

[13] Facebook.com/syriahteat, July 16, 2019.

[14] Facebook.com/1200239933409031, July 7, 2019.

[15] Facebook.com/Damascus.news.99, July 5, 2019.