In Focus | Notes on Legislative Decree No. 31 to Amend the Mandatory Military Service Law
Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian Regime, issued a legislative decree to amend the articles related to the cash payment that must be made by Syrian men seeking to avoid undertaking the mandatory military service. Based on the amendment, those with medical excuses are now expected to 3,000 US Dollars and they will be assigned solely to administrative services. For individuals born and living outside Syria, they are expected to pay the same amount. For male citizens residing outside Syria, they are expected to pay based on the current classification system:
- 10,000 USD for those who lived one year outside of Syria
- 9,000 USD for those who lived two full years outside of Syria
- 8,000 USD for those who have lived three years and 7,000 USD for those who completed at least four years outside of Syria
After reaching the age of compulsory service.
Under the decree, academic delegate sent abroad to study are also entitled to pay 6,000 USD to avoid undertaking their mandatory military service.
It also gave civil pilot the right to pay a cash sum that will exempt him from service.
Several notes concerning the law must be considered:
1. The paragraph regarding payment was amended from “paid in US Dollars or its equivalent in the Syrian Pound according to the exchange rate issued by the Central Bank” to “US Dollars or the equivalent in the Syrian Pound at the rate determined by the Central Bank”. Based on the decree, the Central Bank can set the exchange rate from USD or Euros or any other currency against the Syrian Pound whereby it may ask for an exchange rate higher than the black-market price. The amendment confirms that the goal behind this decree is to obtain foreign exchange.
2. The decree made a wide range of Syrians eligible to apply to make the payment. For the first time, it gave the right to academic delegates, who are sent abroad to study at the expense of the government, civil pilots and youth residing abroad even for one year to make the payment to avoid undertaking their mandatory military service. With this move, the decree aims to increase the amount of incoming foreign currency by expanding the eligibility criteria as well as facilitate the return of many people from these groups to Syria due to lacks human resources following years of forced migration.
3. The decree also comes days before the holding the Russian sponsored refugee conference in Damascus. The decree aims to address one of the reasons Syrian male youth are residing abroad or seeking asylum, especially in European countries, by enabling them to pay an amount that is relatively low in proportion to income levels in their countries residence. Based on a special paragraph in the decree, the Central Bank of Syria can under charge the equivalent USD amount in Euros, thereby facilitating the process.
Despite this, these measures will not prompt many refugees to return to Syria even if they have access to such sums of money. Studies conducted by the United Nations and other international organizations have shown that military service was not at the top of the list of reasons preventing refugees from returning to Syria.
The decree is expected to act as a good source of revenue for the Central Bank treasury that is almost empty of foreign exchange. This will be the case especially if countries of refuge pressure Syrian youth to return by removing mandatory military service as a reason for seeking asylum based on the amendments to this decree.
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies
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