Forced conscription deprives Raqqa’s youth of their jobs

An SDF fighter raising victory sign while sitting on the top of a tank (Rudaw Media Network)

An SDF fighter raising victory sign while sitting on the top of a tank (Rudaw Media Network)

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Raqqa – Hussam al-Omar

Fahan al-Ali, a 27-year-old resident of Raqqa, has to quit his job in one of Raqqa’s Civil Council committees after he was called for military service within the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). 

Speaking with Enab Baladi, al-Ali said that he had to give up his job even though he was one of the first people to join the institutions established to manage the city’s affairs, even before it fell under the control of the SDF in late 2017. 

 On 18 April 2017, Raqqa’s Civil Council was established in the town of Ain Issa, in the northern countryside of Raqqa, at a time when the SDF was engaged in battles against the militants of the Islamic State (IS), which was controlling large areas of Syrian territory at that time. 

Like al-Ali, many young men were forced to give up their jobs for two reasons. First, they were called into forced conscription within the SDF ranks. Second, they faced frequent harassment by the administration that replaced them with former employees of the Syrian regime’s public institutions.

“The misfortunes of some people are advantages to others”

“The misfortunes of some people are advantages to others,” with this popular proverb, al-Ali described his condition and his co-workers’.  They were replaced by former employees of the Syrian regime, although the latter were not allowed to work in the civil institutions established in Raqqa when the SDF first took control of the governorate. 

Every now and then, the Self-Defense Office of the SDF issues circularsthe latest of which was issued on 20 May demanding those it describes as “evaders” to settle their situation and join the duty of self-defense.  

An employee of the Energy and Communications Committee of Raqqa’s Civil Council, who declined to be named for fear of losing his job, told Enab Baladi that his co-worker was forced to leave work after imposing forced conscription on young males in the region. The next day, he found himself a co-worker of a former employee in the regime’s institutions.

An employee, in his thirties, was dismayed by the replacement of existing young employees with former employees of the Syrian regime-linked institutions in the Autonomous Administration.

 He pointed out that the “majority” of the young employees of the Autonomous Administration had to work without salaries or cash compensation, sometimes for several months in efforts to help the Autonomous Administration’s institutions to kick off and take their current form. Unfortunately, these employees find themselves forced to leave their work for fear of conscription.

Regime’s employees fostering legacy of corruption in Autonomous Administration

Young employees from Raqqa, who spoke to Enab Baladi, said that the Syrian regime’s employees have brought with them corruption and bribery to the Autonomous Administration-run institutions. 

“It is just too hard to see my co-worker leaving his job and someone else taking his place. Not only this, the new employee has come in with thousands of plans and tricks in his mind to get bribes from clients of the Autonomous Administration institutions,” the Energy and Communications Committee employee described his new co-worker. 

Several people took to the streets to protest against the Autonomous Administration for the spread of corruption and nepotism among its cadres. The administration was likened to the institutions of the Syrian regime, despite its “reform” claims. 

The Self-Defense Office of Raqqa’s Civil Council, as a pressure tool, stopped paying their employees required for performing compulsory service last February.

One of the Self-Defense Office employees previously told Enab Baladi that one of the office’s administrators told its employees that the Autonomous Administration and Raqqa’s Civil Council would replace all employees who get late in regularizing their situation, with thousands of people registered in the Employment Office in Raqqa.

Kurdish People’s Protection Units implemented compulsory conscription on young people in its areas of control in the Jazira region following the 2014 Dohuk agreement, signed by Syrian Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, as a  part of a political and administrative action plan in some areas in al-Hasakah governorate and Ain al-Arab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

The Autonomous Administration adopted a policy of compulsory conscription in its areas of control for the benefit of the SDF, only to announce, in June 2019, the official ratification of the Self-Defense law, which includes 35 articles, in which it set the conditions of military service, exemption, postponement, and all laws related to those assigned and covered by conscription.

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