Louay wishes he had never graduated from law school days. He will be required to perform his mandatory military service a few months after his results come out.
He was counting on enrolling in the educational qualification program, for which a student can obtain a certificate of service deferral, which may extend for up to two years. But, as he says, "it is my misfortune, that Damascus University this year excluded law graduates from the list of students eligible to enroll for this diploma."
The weight of the world fell over his shoulders, as Louay puts it, after all the doors that might enable him to enter a graduate program at the University of Damascus were shut to him. He could not find any way to serve him rid himself of the specter of enrollment in the ranks of the Syrian regime's army.
Says Louay: "A friend in Homs told about the intention of the College of Education at Al-Baath University to accept graduates from all disciplines, to study the Diploma in Education in the open education system. I was barely able to receive a deferral, having ben able to enroll in the very last few days open for enrollment."
A Military Service Deferral Diploma!
Ammar denounces the rush by his female colleagues to enroll in the study for the Diploma in Education as, according to him, this way "they are depriving their male colleagues the chance to defer their military service."
He adds: "I do not know why the girls study this diploma, which has been named the 'Military Service Deferral Diploma.' That truly is its only benefit!"
Ammar justifies his fear of joining the regime's forces, by pointing to his friends who went to perform their military service four years ago, and who are yet to be released—with the exception of those who were "returned atop shoulders, to the cemetery," as he puts it.
A permission to travel from the recruitment division, is one of the solutions to which newly graduated students resort. This includes Firas from the city of Homs, who is trying to secure a college scholarship outside Syria, during the nine months that the permission grants him.
Says Firas: "I have now started a correspondence with a university in Germany, with the hope of them perhaps permitting me to go on with my studies in their colleges. I began to learn German as one of the conditions of the grant."
Despite numerous attempts to invalidate the rumors surrounding him, it is now common knolwedge to alland sundry that Abu Fadi—an employee of the Recruitment Division in Homs—can secure the deferral of anyone he wishes, for a full year. "This, of course, requires amounts of money and gifts he [Abu Fadi] shares with his co-workers," says the young Karam.
Karam paid 100 thousand Syrian Pounds, and obtained a deferral through one of Abu Fadi's "concoctions." His family and he are now also currently expecting issuance of another deferral for his older brother. Because Abu Fadi had told them that the second son's situation was more "complex" in the Recruitment Division; the family were forced to pay up 250 thousand Syrian Pounds, to keep their son close to them.
In the Hope of an Exemption
Bassam, who has completed his forty years, did not join the ranks of the army during the long years of peace—how would he do it now!? Especially after he had founded his own family, of which he is the sole breadwinner.
"I cannot sleep," Bassam tells Rozana. He adds: "I get the feeling every night will be my last with my wife and my child. I have deferred my service for too long. I should have done it years ago."
Bassam now holds hope of another year passing like its predecessors, away from the eyes of military police. If he manages it, he will turn forty-two years old, which exempts him from service altogether.
The declaration of general mobilization concerns not only Bassam, but everyone—including those deferred and exempted. The regime's media campaigns prompting men to join the ranks of the army are growing in intensity; and the calls of spokesmen on behalf of the regime, stressing the need to join the troops' ranks have become more urgent.