Homs: Hezbollah joins recruitment market, Fifth Corps most preferred by needy youth

Syrian regime forces in the northern countryside of Homs city - 2018 (Sputnik)

Syrian regime forces in the northern countryside of Homs city - 2018 (Sputnik)

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Enab Baladi – Homs

Almost eight years ago, multilateral negotiations began between the armed opposition factions and the Syrian regime forces brokered by Iran and Russia and supervised by the UN, which led to an agreement to transfer fighters and civilians outside the city of Homs as part of forced surrender operations. The besieged people had no choice but to surrender or die.

During the negotiations, the Russian delegation tried to keep as many young residents of the region as possible by persuading them not to leave for northern Syria in an attempt to preserve the human mass in Homs.

When the ‘Green Busses’ parked in the city to start evacuating the opposition fighters and their families in May 2018, many of the city’s youth preferred to stay in their city rather than live the harsh experience of displacement.

But it was only a few months after the start of the negotiations until the security tightening returned to the region in several forms, most notably arrests, kidnappings, and conscription campaigns into military conscription.

Also, a short period following the ‘reconciliation’ agreements, the recruitment offices of the auxiliary forces (paramilitary groups) began to attract young people and promoted members of “reconciliation” deals to join the military service.

In the policy of enticement and intimidation, the military police checkpoints started a campaign to arrest wanted people for military service, which prompted large numbers of young people in the northern countryside of Homs to voluntarily join the regime’s forces in the hope that they would not be deployed on the fighting fronts.

The regime forces and the allied forces backed by Russia or Iran are still trying repeatedly to encourage young men in the city of Homs to be recruited and to fight as mercenaries, sometimes fighting outside the borders of Syria to carry out multiple tasks.

Training, salaries, and security approvals

The sectarian militias in Homs welcomed young men fleeing from compulsory service, conducted simple military training for them, and pushed them to the battlefronts to guard their economic interests.

At the beginning of 2022, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia entered the “recruitment competition” in Homs to include fighters in its ranks between 15 and 20 years, after careful security monitoring and a combat course inside Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah’s recruitment is carried out by officials from the Shiite villages of Homs, where the names of registered young men are sent to the Syrian security for a security approval, according to a lawyer from Talbiseh town in the northern countryside of Homs.

The lawyer, who facilitates the recruiting process, spoke to Enab Baladi on condition of anonymity, saying, “most of the young men who join Hezbollah are easily controlled and brainwashed, pulled by a salary of 150 US dollars.”

The service is currently in the Hezbollah bastions and checkpoints in the Western Qalamoun region and the town of al-Qusayr, he added.

Encouraging factors

Most of the Syrian people, regardless of their places of residence or who control their areas (the Assad regime or the opposition), have been facing chronic economic and living conditions due to the long war years amid lack of job opportunities and the inability to secure a stable income, the collapse of the Syrian pound, and high prices of housing and basic materials along with a stifling fuel crisis.

All of these factors combined made some young residents of the northern countryside of Homs join the militias, which offer encouraging salaries, compared to work in the factories of the industrial district of Hassia south of Homs city, where workers’ salaries range between (30- 60 US dollars) at best.

Youssef, 26, one of the recruitees of the Fifth Corps, told Enab Baladi that he left his job in a construction company due to the low salary, 80,000 Syrian Pounds (25 US dollars), and mistreatment to end up in the Russian-backed militia for 125 US dollars per month, half a month he spends in the Palmyra desert and the other half at home. 

Youssef, who declined to give his full name for security reasons, assured that the low wages in private sector companies push young men to join the ‘militancy’ for a modest amount of dollars as well as for some material advantages like canned food and ration goods.

Over the past few days, a new recruitment call surfaced in Homs for young people to join fighting fronts in Ukraine, according to a member of the Fifth Corps, in a previous interview with Enab Baladi.

Senior regime army officers offered troops and fighters of the regime and auxiliary forces to fight in Ukraine for a $250 salary, he added.

Who are the Mercenaries

According to the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, issued by the United Nations in December 1989, the “mercenary” is “any person, specially recruited, locally or abroad, to fight in an armed conflict, and whose primary motive to participate in hostilities is the desire in achieving personal gain through rewards offered to him by one of the parties of the conflict.”

The mercenary is not a party in the conflict or a member of the armed forces of both parties, and he is not in an official mission, in addition to his goal as a personal gain and “overthrowing a government or undermining the constitutional order of a country in some way.”

The mercenary is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed forces of that party.

The United Nations Mercenary Convention says, “Any person who recruits, uses, finances or trains mercenaries, as defined in article 1 of the present Convention, commits an offense for the purposes of the Convention.”

 

Fifth Corps magnetizes

Amer, 30 (pseudonym), a Fifth-Corps member based in the Rastan city, north of Homs, told Enab Baladi that he was a member of the regime forces, but he quit due to the lack of salaries and the lack of vacations, then he joined the Fifth Corps which offers the highest salaries in regime-controlled areas.

The Russian-funded militia attracts people between 18 and 50 years old, as its offers compared to the current living situation seemed to be irresistible, which pushed even the militants of the Iran-backed groups to join the Fifth Corps.

A source familiar with the Iranian-backed militias in Syria told Enab Baladi that “a large wave of defections has spread the “Rapid Intervention Regiment,” a militia formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

“More than 70 militants have fled during the past two months, joining the Fifth Corps, which offers them protection, salaries, and allowances,” he added.

The Iranian militias pay a salary of 100,000 Syrian pounds (30 US dollars), the deployment is concentrated in the eastern al-Bukamal region at the Syria-Iraq border, for 20 days in service and a 10-day off.

The term “Syrian mercenaries” became one of the common terms in the Arab media outlets to dub the Syrian fighters who moved during different time periods to Libya, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine.

On 4 March, the Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) organization released a report on the participation of Syrians in the Russian war on Ukraine that began on 24 February.

According to the report, both warring sides in Syria, the Russian-controlled Syrian security services, and a number of Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition factions began to receive recruiting demands from fighters wishing to fight in Ukraine.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a “special military operation” in the Donbas region, which includes the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, Putin expanded the operations of his forces throughout Ukraine, amid Western military and political support for the Ukrainian government.

Bashar al-Assad, the head of the Syrian regime, voiced his ultimate support for the Russian “Invasion” during a phone call with Putin, according to the Syrian Presidency platforms on social media.

Al-Assad considered that what Russia is doing is “a correction of history and a restoration of balance to the world that it lost after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”

Also, in support of the Russian war, the regime-controlled areas witnessed rallies where Russian flags, slogans of support, and pictures of Putin and Assad were raised.

 

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