“It is the [military] reserve phobia,” says Hani born in 1988, a resident of the city of Damascus. The young man goes even further, describing the situation as a "syndrome" with which he lives daily in the country. It has robbed him of sleep for nearly four years now.
The symptoms of this "syndrome" start to increase, with every piece of news received about one of his friends or relatives being drafted on of the multitude of Syrian regime’s checkpoints.
This "phobia" or "syndrome" as the young man described it, has reached fever pitch recently, as security checkpoints in Damascus launched a campaign to [forcibly] draft young men into reserve duty—“at random,” as social media sources claimed. A regime military security personnel stressed that this was "merely a crackdown on reserve duty dodgers."
Maneuver Tactics on Security Checkpoints!
To date, no formal decision was issued by the Syrian regime government, nor has there even been an explicit official public refutation. The rumor has, therefore, become closer to truth. That has prompted young men to sequester themselves in their homes; reduce to a minimum their movement on the streets of Damascus—save for absolute necessity; resort to long circuitous bypass routes, studiously planned before venturing out; or by sending out a “young child” on a reconnaissance mission to ensure no buses or security patrols are lurking in the neighborhood.
Says Hani: “I have recently, shut myself away at home. I am a Minibus driver; I parked my vehicle next to the house and ensconced myself with my family. It is out of fear of being dragged to reserve service on one of the [regime] security checkpoints. My fellow driver, working on the Jdaidet Artouz-Damascus service line, has assured me that the Somariyya checkpoint recently dragged one of the drivers away [for reserve duty].”
He adds: "I am not alone! Many of my colleagues stopped working on their vehicles for the same reason. Allah Bi’awwidna [God will compensate us]!”.
Damascus: A City Without Young Men!
For several days now, the Syrian capital has witnessed a state close to a curfew. There is an almost complete—and palpable—absence of young men from the streets and shops—even from government jobs; as well as a crisis and congestion on the means of transport, most of which simply stopped operating the work recently.
Rami, a young man born in 1990, works in the private sector. He was unable of convincing his employer to grant him an open leave until matters “calmed down.” Today, he is today obligated to go to work from his home in the Barzeh housing [project, in the Northeast] to Jaramana [in the Southeast].
Along this road there are several security checkpoints, for which the young man has designed a plan to avoid them. He would disembark the microbus no less than 100 meters before the checkpoint, cross the distance on foot on the opposite side of the checkpoint, or via a variety of neighborhoods bypasses.
Rami confirms that the journey to his place of work now takes him circa two and a half hours per day; not to mention the additional cost of transportation—due to the frequent switches he makes while on the road. His friend, therefore, suggested that he sleep at the office with him—the “perfect solution.” Rami and some other young men at work were convinced, after their employer granted his approval. He did ask them for additional work hours in return, though.
No Safety—Even at Home!
Even staying in at home is not safe for Mahmoud, a recent university graduate who holds a deferment certificate for military service in the regime army until next March, only.
He sternly warned his family not to open the front door, before making sure who it was knocking. He stresses that he is seeking to migrate as soon as possible within this brief short period—after long rejecting the idea altogether. He wishes to pursue his higher education.
Mahmoud adds: "Today I am, more than ever, convinced of [the idea of] migration. I am not prepared to forcibly be made to carry arms. I have a future that I want to create. Otherwise I will be dragged to some forsaken distant military barracks, to a service for which I will know no clear end. My dreams will end as soon as I put on that camouflage uniform."
Rumor or Reality?
Young Syrian men are waiting on any official statement, denying or confirming the rumors which are raging day after day; coupled with examples and anecdotal evidence navigate through the “grapevine.” It is as if the Damascus [regime] leadership has allowed this intentionally, with some ulterior motive of theirs.
A recently spread rumor that made the rounds across social media pages talks of a presumed “presidential decision" of the Syrian regime, ordering that any “young male adult or man” be seized for service in the army.
The fact that the presidency usually issues decrees—not decisions; that the expression “seizing any young male adult or man” is not entirely accurate; and the numerous grammatical and syntax errors in the text of the purported “decision” notwithstanding; the regime’s complete silence on the matter raises fear and suspicion, according to Samer, a third-year university student.
Ahmad adds: "One checkpoint even tore the student [deferment] certificate of one of my friends. Another checkpoint detained a friend for more than two hours, and took all his information—merely because he was well-built with broad shoulders [i.e. fir for military service]. I really do not have to go to university now. I will go sleep in a safe place—the university dormitories. I will only come out [of hiding] after this wave has come to rest.”