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Syria offers amnesty to deserters and draft dodgers

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The Syrian Government, on Tuesday, announced an amnesty for men who deserted the army or have avoided military service, local media reported

It gave them several months to report for duty without facing punishment.

The fear of conscription and the potential punishment for ducking it or for desertion is frequently cited by aid groups as one of the main reasons refugees give for not wanting to return home.

Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, in a decree issued on his social media feeds said the amnesty covered all punishments for desertion inside or outside Syria.

A report says men inside Syria will have four months to take advantage of the amnesty while those, outside will have six months.

“Under Syrian military law, deserters can face years of prison if they leave their posts and do not report for service within a set amount of time,’’ it said.

Syria’s conflict began in 2011 after mass protests against Assad’s rule, eventually leading to half a million deaths and drawing in the world and regional powers.

Many soldiers deserted, some to join the rebels, and others to escape the fighting.

More than half the pre-war population fled their homes, while about 5 million went abroad and millions of others were displaced within Syria.

“While the amnesty covers desertion, it does not cover fighting against the government or joining the rebels, who are regarded by the Syrian Government as terrorists,’’ the government.

In the past three years, Russian and Iranian Military support has helped Assad regain control of numerous enclaves held by anti-Assad rebels or jihadist militants, ending fighting in many areas.

After a Russian-Turkish deal to avert an assault on the last major opposition stronghold, in the northwest, it is unclear if there will be significant new military offensives soon.

Lebanon says 50,000 Syrian refugees, among the more than a million it says, are on its soil, have gone home voluntarily in assisted returns this year.

However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Chief, Filippo Grandi, said conditions have not yet been fulfilled for mass refugee returns.

Grandi, while speaking in Beirut in August, said refugees were concerned about conscription and other issues such as the lack of infrastructure. (Reuters/NAN)

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