Syrian Kurdish-led authorities say they won’t abolish conscription system

"We [Kurds] cannot distance ourselves from the idea of self-defense—once our homeland is freed and there are no more threats against our people, we might consider the cancellation of the program."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior official from the Defense Board of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Self-Administration in Ain al-Issa has said there are no plans yet to stop the military conscription of young men in Syria’s northeast.

Shirin Qamar, the co-chair of the Defense Board of the Autonomous Administration, told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive interview that although the region has been through challenging times, there are no plans to end the controversial military service program.

Qamar described the purpose of the military service as “for the sake” of the defense of one’s homeland.

For the time being, the Autonomous Self-Administration does not plan “to stop the self-duty [military service] program,” she added. “These servicemen are considered the defenders of their land, and they are shouldering their responsibilities on the borders.”

“The process is known to everyone: it includes 45 days of patriotic education and self-knowledge, as well as military training. And later on, they serve their homeland in the position of border guards.”

Some critics complain the conscription law has prevented young men that left Syria from returning to the country’s northeast.

However, according to Qamar, although military conscription might be canceled in the future depending on the time and situation, it is still needed today.

“We [Kurds] cannot distance ourselves from the idea of self-defense—once our homeland is freed and there are no more threats against our people, we might consider the cancellation of the program, but the current situation is not normal,” she told Kurdistan 24.

“ISIS and the Turkish occupation are the major threats against our areas. On the other hand, we have the Turkish-backed mercenary factions like the Euphrates Shield, which are trying to infiltrate into our homeland and undermine its stability,” the official explained.

“Therefore, it is necessary for us Kurds, men and women, to be well educated on patriotism and self-defense to face the challenges—and that is a founding part of our idea.”

Since November 2014, local authorities in northern Syria have enforced military conscription on military-aged men of all ethnicities.

However, every local canton or regional council administration in northeastern Syria has had the right to decide its own military conscription age.

This inconsistency led to complaints among locals that they were being discriminated against age-wise per region according to an Al Monitor report.

The report suggested that men in al-Jazira [Hasakah province] and the Kobani region born in 1986 had to serve, while their peers in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor had to serve at a later age.

While it was a bit easier to implement conscription in Kurdish-dominant areas, the administration was more careful in the recently liberated Arab majority regions.

The new order now unifies the conscription age in all of northeastern Syria from 1990.

“All institutions within the local administrative bodies are responsible to carry out the articles of the new order accordingly,” Qamar said.

“The people have been asking if there would be a unification of age for those called in for military service. Based on the recommendations from our people, we prioritized the subject,” she added. “We agreed upon unification of age for military service personnel in all cantons and areas.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany