Fri 27 Nov 2020

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Driven by greed to fight in Libya for money… Young men of As-Suwayda fall victim to brokers

Young people in As-Suwayda waiting for buses to take them to Latakia and travel to Libya and participate in the fighting - 9 September 2020 (Sweida 24)

Young people in As-Suwayda waiting for buses to take them to Latakia and travel to Libya and participate in the fighting - 9 September 2020 (Sweida 24)

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As-Suwayda – Rayan al-Atrash

Early last September, 180 young men stood in the city of As-Suwayda waiting for a bus, hoping to take them to a better reality, but they were surprised, two days after their departure, that this bus only took them to a loss.

Fighting alongside the forces of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar in Libya promoted many young people who have suffered from dire living conditions to accept the brokers’ travel deal to Libya. These young men actually paid 250,000 Syrian Pounds ( SYP- more than 100 USD) to the brokers to register their names.

However, Latakia’s military base accepted to receive only a few young men, refusing most of them under the pretext of completing the required number.

In pursuit of income… even through taking up arms

Omar Abu Hassoun was able to disassociate himself from participating in the fighting during the past nine years in Syria. Still, as soon as he heard about the opportunity to fight in Libya for a thousand USD a month, he took the initiative to register his name.

As monitored by Enab Baladi, the average monthly income of young people in As-Suwayda governorate does not exceed 50 thousand SYP (about 22 USD), with rampant unemployment, poor services, and failure to meet life’s basic needs.

In the office of a lawyer in Shahba, north of As-Suwayda, Abu Hassoun signed the fighting contract that specified the term of the expected monthly salary after paying him an amount of 100 USD. 

“My family was well-off before, but we are now below the poverty line,” the young man told Enab Baladi.

Lack of job opportunities plunged Abu Hassoun into desperation. This is why he decides to take the risk, traveling to Libya and fighting in Haftar’s war against the UN-backed government in Tripoli. On the other hand, Anwar Abu Mahmoud’s responsibility to provide for his family drove him to decide to fight in Libya. 

“If one of my family members falls sick, I don’t have more than 150,000 SYP (62.3 USD) to buy medicine,” Abu Mahmoud told Enab Baladi, indicating that this is the value of the income he can secure from continuous work during the month.

The young people of As-Suwayda avoided forced conscription in the ranks of the Syrian regime forces during the years of the war after local factions were formed that confronted the Syrian regime and refused to accept dragging the province into the conflict.

However, the young men of As-Suwayda will not be exempted from the military services because their names are circulated at the security checkpoints as evaders of military services. This makes both Abu Mahmoud and Abu Hassoun feel that there is nothing to lose. 

Anger and censure… Will that expel the Syrian youth from Libya?

On 9 September, a sound recording of a broker denying that he deceived some young men was published on Facebook. He confirmed that he had received promises to obtain security approvals to send some young men from Russia’s Hmeimim Air Base to Libya. Still, he was “surprised” by what happened; the base accepted to receive only 25 of the more than 150 young people who had arrived.

The recording and pictures of young men gathered to wait for buses sparked outrage in the governorate and led to the intervention of the Druze community’s spiritual head in Palestine, Sheikh Muwafaq Tarif. Tarif “communicated” with the Russian administration to stop their recruitment.

The local “Cheetah Forces” faction issued a statement denouncing the recruitment and withdrawal of young men from As-Suwayda, noting that “mercenarism” contradicts the customs and traditions of the people of As-Suwayda while calling on religious authorities, notables, local factions, and actors to stop and prevent the recruitment.

Abu Mahmoud does not believe that sheiks have the right to issue statements or comment on the issue of conscription because they are “one of the reasons for the young men’s decision to emigrate,” as he put it.

“They offered us only statements,” Abu Mahmoud said, pointing out the Sheiks provided assistance to those who are not needy in the governorate and that the decision to fight was “urgent” to secure a source of livelihood.

 

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