National Army salaries do not meet needs

A fighter in the Syrian National Army (SNA) near the frontline in Aleppo countryside, northern Syria - December 8, 2023 (The Ministry of Defense of the Interim Government).

A fighter in the Syrian National Army (SNA) near the frontline in Aleppo countryside, northern Syria - December 8, 2023 (The Ministry of Defense of the Interim Government).


Azaz – Dayan Junpaz

Despite the recent increase in the salaries of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) members, they are still below the necessary limit to improve their standard of living in the view of those affiliated with this military faction. With the economic and living conditions deteriorating in the region as a whole, many are compelled to resort to working in various professions to meet their families’ needs, while the amount of the increase varies with its percentage unclear.

Mustafa, one of the elements of the SNA, considered that the opportunity to find another additional job is not easy or at the seeker’s choice, as the dire circumstances impose themselves to accept any offer that may bring in a little money, and this is the situation for most fighters due to the low monthly salaries, he says.

Mustafa, who is married with four children, now receives a monthly salary of 1,000 Turkish liras (about $32), where it was previously 600 Turkish liras. He receives it from the group leader, indicating that some members close to the leadership may receive up to 3,000 Turkish liras.

Mustafa (a pseudonym for security reasons) said that in addition to his military work in the ranks of the Third Legion, he tries to work in several professions so as not to need anyone, as he tried working with electricity, agriculture, and construction. He needs about $200 a month, yet often has to borrow from relatives and friends.

Mustafa explained to Enab Baladi that staying at home all the time and not going to the legion’s headquarters makes it easier for him to find another job. However, in case of alert, he goes to the “center” (the faction elements’ assembly site). He pointed out that this mechanism is agreed upon between the element and the leadership, while the salaries of those who stay at the checkpoints are different by 300 Turkish liras, according to his talk.

No mechanism for salary increase

At the beginning of February, Telegram channels and rooms (widely used in the region) circulated news about a 100% salary increase for fighters within the National Army, for the salary of the element to become 2,000 Turkish liras, without an official decision on that.

According to what Enab Baladi learned from fighters, the increase was varied and ranged between 80 and 90%. It tried to contact the defense minister of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) to confirm this increase and clarify the mechanism for granting salaries to the fighters, but it did not receive a response at the time of preparing this report.

The salaries of the factions’ fighters are the lowest in areas under the Syrian National Army control, which includes the northern and eastern rural areas of Aleppo and the cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain in northeastern Syria, compared to all salaries of employees in specializations such as health, religious verdicts, justice, customs, and others.

Additional work, Debts are mounting

Salaries of the National Army elements differ according to the faction and position and are delivered by the battalion leaders or groups, or even by personal delivery at the headquarters. Salaries from the Turkish side reach the operations room in Hiwar Kallis village, rural Aleppo, and this room operates in coordination with the National Army leadership and the Turkish forces.

The low salaries add difficulties for the National Army elements amid economically declining conditions, just like the rest of the residents in northwestern Syria, causing some of them to turn to other professions in their available free time to increase their monthly income.

The daily wage for a worker in various professions such as agriculture and construction ranges between 70 and 100 Turkish liras, while the recognized extreme poverty line reached 7,844 Turkish liras per month.

Hassan, an element from the Sham Legion fighters, used to get a salary of 700 Turkish liras before the salaries were raised, with his monthly salary since the increase becoming 1,300 Turkish liras.

After the relative increase, the amount was contrary to the decision issued by the leadership, as it was supposed to become 2,000 liras for the fighter, according to him, without the existence of proof or a statement from a responsible source about this figure.

Hassan lives with his family, which consists of six siblings and his mother (his father, a deceased fighter), and he gets his father’s salary from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which amounts to 2,150 Turkish liras, which is almost double the young man’s salary after the raise decision, he says.

Hassan’s family circumstances and his meager monthly income force him to resort to borrowing from acquaintances and relatives, as he is the oldest son and obliged to provide a decent life for his family, adding that the family’s monthly living costs reach $200, which are the minimum requirements.

No opportunity is available for the young man to work in another profession that would add revenue to his monthly income and improve his conditions besides getting rid of claims for debt repayment from some people, which puts the young man in an awkward position, according to him.

The nature of Hassan’s work in the Sham Legion falls under specific purposes, such as intervening in case of disputes or problems and the like incidents in the area.

Hassan told Enab Baladi that his working system has a three-day shift in the faction’s central building, in exchange for staying at home for six days without work, or staying in the central headquarters for five days in exchange for 20 days without work.

Low salaries and corruption

Salaries and rewards for National Army elements have improved, according to fighters Enab Baladi spoke with, but those stationed on the frontlines do not see an improvement in their salaries. At the same time, some leaders receive salaries that far exceed those of ordinary and frontline elements.

In this context, Firas (a pseudonym for security reasons), one of the fighters of “Faylaq al-Majd” (the Legion of Glory), told Enab Baladi that he left the front lines and joined the checkpoints and central headquarters, due to the different level of salaries between areas. The salaries of the fighters on the frontlines are less than their counterparts in cities free of conflict, despite the challenges and risks they face.

He added that his current “security” job gets him 1,200 Turkish liras, whereas at the frontline posts he was getting 800 Turkish liras. This prompted him to leave the frontlines, considering himself an example of many fighters who gave up their posts and chose either “security” work or accompanying leaders or other available options, according to him.

Firas pointed out that low salaries prompted some elements to earn money illicitly, noting that some of them began to ask for money from those passing through the checkpoints.

According to a study entitled “Toolkit on Police Integrity” by the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), if the wages of elements are much lower than those they could receive in other jobs, some will justify unethical or inappropriate behavior on the basis that their employer does not treat them properly.

For individuals who receive a meager wage and face financial problems in their lives, it is difficult to resist the temptation of corruption, according to the study.

The opposition’s Syrian National Coalition stated that the number of National Army fighters reached 80,000 in 2019, while a report by the Middle East Institute, in October 2022, mentioned that the formation gathers between 50,000 and 70,000 fighters.


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