A new law by the Kurdish self-administration governing parts of northeast Syria requires residents of age for mandatory military service who have moved to Europe from Kurdish-held territories to pay $200 for each year they do not return. The regulation was part of an updated "self-defense duty" law adopted last month.
The Kurds’ Jazira canton stretches across the northern half of Al-Hasakah province. It is the easternmost and largest of four cantons that make up Rojava, a swathe of de facto autonomous territories in northern Syria ruled by the PYD-led self-administration.
This past September, a member of the Youth Union of Al-Hasakah told Syria Direct that fighting had forced “30 percent” of the province’s residents to leave, whether for Turkey, Iraq or beyond.
The new fee, which only applies to those holding citizenship or residency in European countries, it is “a tax on the luxury” of avoiding military service, Aras Mistou, a member of the press office for the PYD-led self-administration’s Internal Affairs Entity tells Syria Direct’s Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim.
While the spokesman maintains that “this fee protects the citizens, as security is the greatest benefit for residents of Rojava’s cities,”others disagree. “These decisions don’t do anything to encourage children of the homeland to return to it,” one Al-Hasakah resident commented on an initial draft of the law on Facebook.
Q: Why impose a tax on residents who have left?
This is not a tax per se, but rather a yearly fee for those aged 18-30 who are on the run from their duty toward self-defense [and are in Europe]. Those fleeing the service from this age group will pay the monetary alternative until they reach the age of 40.
[Ed.: For example, an 18-year-old woman who flees the province and stays in Europe for 10 years would owe $2,000 upon returning to Al-Hasakah.]
The fee does not include those who have fled to neighboring countries, such as Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, because we do not consider this legitimate residency.
Naturally, this decision is to help the many young people who want to return to the embrace of the homeland. I consider it a tax on the luxury that [emigrants] have in Europe while their brothers and sisters in Rojava and Syria pay with their blood on the fronts, fighting terrorists and mercenaries.
Q: What are the economic implications of this decision on residents of the Jazira canton?
We know that all the fighting fronts in Rojava with the IS terrorists are active. To continue these campaigns there has to be a monetary contribution to buy weapons to defend our areas. Naturally, this fee protects the citizens, as security is the greatest benefit for residents of Rojava’s cities.
Ultimately, this [sum] will go to the financial and defense institutions in the canton to spend as they see fit.
Q: Does this decision include non-Kurdish citizens?
Of course. This decision includes all the citizens living in the canton and does not exclude anybody. It includes Arabs, Christians and the whole spectrum of those living in Rojava’s cities.
Many Arabs and Christians have been martyred on the fronts, fighting alongside their Kurdish brothers and sisters.