A Syrian soldier who was ordered to shoot civilian protesters and imprisoned for refusing to do so speaks with Andrew Slater about life in the Army and the crimes of the Assad regime.
In the coming days the United States and other countries will make a decision on the use of military force against Syria. The consequences of this decision will affect not only the Assad regime loyalists but also the foot soldiers manning bunkers, barracks, and installations across the country. For the vast majority of Syria’s conscripted soldiers, military service amounts to a brutal prison sentence of unknown length now that the war has extended service periods indefinitely.
Though the Syrian army does contain true believers who believe that it’s their duty to defeat the rebels and any means justifies this end, many are draftees with no ideological sympathy for the regime and are merely following orders to survive.
Faced with certain death for desertion, and possible retaliation against their families, many conscripts have been put in the nightmarish situation of choosing between committing war crimes or being killed for trying to flee from a war effort they don’t support.
The excuse of “following orders” has its moral limits but to ignore the position forced on Syrian conscripts is its own form of blindness. Pretending that all Syrian soldiers are the same and equally culpable may be of some comfort if the decision to attack is made but it obscures the truth of the situation.
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