Several villages in Suwayda’s Jabal a-Druze region released statements last week denouncing a rumored regime conscription policy following the arrest and forced conscription of 11 Suwayda youths at a regime checkpoint in Suwayda city on November 15.
The authenticity of the new conscription policy is unclear. Opposition media outlets reported a decree on November 14 authorizing state security to arrest any young man between 17 and 42 years old and force him into military service. No official government announcement has been reported by regime media. Residents were nonetheless enraged when reports of the decree reached them.
The village of Amtan circulated a statement accusing the local military police chief of “spreading confusion and shaking the stability of Jabal a-Druze,” while another village said it would “do the impossible” to retake anyone forced into service.
Basil Azam, a journalist in Suwayda city, told Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali that resistance to regime conscription in Suwayda is the legacy of the assassinated Druze sheikh Abu Fahd Waheed al-Balaus.
“Abu Fahd stood up to the regime several months ago when he refused to allow Suwayda’s sons to be conscripted as offerings for Assad to stay in power.”
Q: What leads you to believe the regime is carrying out this new conscription policy in Suwayda?
The regime’s soldiers and its security branches across Syria over the last 10 days have engaged in a wide campaign of arrests at checkpoints and at government institutions to take young men born between 1973 and 1988 for military service. And they did this in Suwayda. They arrested 11 young men who were on their way back from Damascus at a checkpoint near the Suwayda Cemetery.
Police patrols have also spread out through Suwayda city’s markets. However, in the villages of Jabal Druze, residents released statements threatening to confront any officer who tries to arrest anyone for military service.
Q: What are the reasons for Suwayda residents’ refusal to send their sons to join the Syrian army?
A large segment of Suwayda’s population is trying not to involve themselves or their sons in the regime’s war on itspeople. [Refusing mandatory military service] has taken on more significance since the founding of the Sheikhs of Dignity by the martyr Abu Fahd Waheed al-Balaus. Abu Fahd stood up to the regime several months ago when he refused to allow Suwayda’s sons to be conscripted as offerings for Assad to stay in power. He also helped release those wanted for mandatory service on at least 20 occasions. This is probably the main reason why he was killed.
Q: Who is responsible for protecting Suwayda now?
Suwayda’s relationship with their neighbors in Daraa is good, and the city is not facing any imminent danger. The regime occasionally publishes reports in state media of battles with the Islamic State in areas bordering the province and near the desert. There are isolated instances of fighting in the province, but Suwayda’s own take care of its defense, not the regime or its security branches.