Syria Druze protest
regime conscription

Protesters blocked roads leading to Suweida's police headquarters after a young man was arrested for avoiding military conscription.

Suweida protest. (image via Siraj Press)

BEIRUT – Druze youths in southern Syria have protested against the regime’s military conscription efforts in recent days, while residents of Druze-populated areas have moved to arm themselves.


On Thursday, a group of youths from the provincial capital Suweida blocked all the roads leading to the local police headquarters, demanding the release of a young man from the area, SMART news reported.


SMART’s correspondent told the pro-opposition agency that a military police patrol arrested Yazan Albeh on the pretext that he had been called up for military service.


The correspondent added that the authorities then proceeded to release Albeh “for fear that the headquarters would be stormed.”


SMART also reported that pro-regime Facebook pages had tried to justify the young man’s release by saying “it was [the Office of the] Military Prosecution that released him, and on the condition that he would return later.”


According to the outlet, this was “an attempt to downplay the importance of city’s youth surrounding the police headquarters and threatening to storm it.”


The protest comes on the heels of a firefight outside the city of Suweida between regime security service members and Druze youths.


An activist from Suweida told All4Syria that on Wednesday that a Criminal Security branch patrol had raided the houses of two young men from the village of Qanawat, which lies around four kilometers northeast of Suweida.


After a clash, in which Salim Hamid and Jawad Zarifeh exchanged fire with the police using light weapons, the two young men were arrested. The activist noted that nobody was injured in the incident.


While the Druze-populated areas of southern Syria are under regime control, residents of the region have generally maintained an autonomous attitude against not only Islamist rebels but also regime efforts to enlist Druze locals to fight in far-off areas of the country.


In the early stages of the civil war in 2012, only 450 of 8000 eligible youths enrolled in the Syrian military, according to the Institute for the Study of War.


A defected Syrian Druze general told Syria Direct in March that Druze do “not exist as a cog in the regime machine.”


Hafez Faraj, who served in Syria’s Air Force, claimed that “more than 10,000 Druze fighters have refused calls for mandatory enlistment in the Syrian army.” 




In light of advances by Syrian rebels in the neighboring Daraa province to the West of Suweida and a brief raid on a town northeast of the city by ISIS, Druze in the area have moved increasingly toward self-armament.


“Some families in Suweida have begun to appoint notables and form armed wings for themselves to administer the affairs of the city and local areas,” All4Syria reported.


“Suweida’s Naeem family has formed an armed brigade called ‘The Standard of Aal Naeem’ which raises the Druze ‘Five Limits Flag’ and the Syrian regime's flag.”


“[The militia] has imposed itself as an authority that will [supposedly] protect […] the province.”


“The Naeem family’s armed groups have entered a number of areas in Suweida, [where] they walk the streets with flags and weapons.”


“They have also opened a [public] garden called ‘The martyr Brigadier General Nidal Naeem’s garden’.”


According to the outlet some families in Suweida have been angered by the formation of the new militia, but not because of the “danger” it poses.


The offense was reportedly caused by the group’s name and the use of the Druze flag.


The militia countered the anger saying in a Facebook post that the name was chosen “to distinguish [us] from the rest of the groups defending the land of the mountain,” All4Syria reported.


“We are proud of all the standards of the mountain and we hope our intentions will be understood.”


All4Syria added that, Sheikh Waheed Balaous, a local notable who has recently taken stances critical of the regime in Damascus, gave his blessing to the armed group and praised the name its founders had chosen.


In late March, Syria’s Druze clerical leadership called on the regime to provide their community with arms.


“We will pursue a request to secure weaponry and appropriate logistical support immediately from the concerned bodies in the Syrian government,” the clerics said in a statement obtained March 27 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


The statement warned that Syria’s Druze were facing a grave and existential threat and called on “all our young men in the Suweida governorate to shoulder their responsibilities to protect their areas.”

A picture purports to show Thursday's road blocking in Suweida. (image via Siraj Press)

Some families in Suweida have begun to appoint notables and form armed wings for themselves to administer the affairs of the city and local areas.