This picture made available October 10, 2018, shows the Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad (L) taking a selfie picture with members of an association of Syrian soldiers wounded during the war, in the capital Damascus. Photo: AFP / Syrian presidency FB
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Months after shaming young men for not conscripting in the Syrian Arab Army, President Bashar al-Assad declared a general amnesty for "deserters in and outside the country."
"This decree does not include fugitives from justice unless they turn themselves in within 4 months for those inside the country and 6 months for those outside the country," read a statement from Assad's office, Syria's state-run SANA news agency has reported.
In March, the Baath regime released a propaganda video titled "Braids of Fire," shaming men for not joining the Army. In the video, Assad's wife Asma al-Assad stood before a group of female volunteers wearing military fatigues.
“You are far stronger and more courageous than many men because when the going got tough, you were on the front lines, and they were the ones running away or hiding,” she had said.
Since then several agreements have been made between opposition groups and the regime — brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Many of the anti-regime rebels are now holed up in the northwestern province of Idlib. Others have been killed in bombings and artillery strikes if they did not leave the capital and other strongholds.
The decree also allows for amnesty "for the full penalty for crimes in the Military Service No. 30 of 2007 and its amendments." The law penalizes those who did not volunteer for military service and "escaped" domestically or abroad.
The Syrian Arab Army was approximately 250,000 strong when protests began in 2011. Objections, desertions, imprisonments, and migration, and heavy casualties have left the number far smaller.
The military-focused outlet War is Boring estimated Assad had 70,000 troops left in 2016. They have been supported by Russian troops and air power, Iranian "advisors," and those of non-Syrian nationality.
Nearly 400,000 Syrians have been killed in the protracted conflict that was complicated by the rise of ISIS in 2014.