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Last update: November 2021

This profile refers to men who have refused or evaded conscription, including those who have not yet been confronted with conscription. It also includes reservists who may be called into military service.

For information on military service and definition of ‘draft evader’ see 2.2.1 Military service: overview.

COI summary

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the cessation of major military operations in Syria in early 2020, SAA military recruitment activities have reportedly slowed down. According to recent reports from 2021, the SAA was regularly calling up new conscripts and reservists, and conscription drives were reported from all areas under government control, particularly from retaken areas. There is also information about a new circular dated 10 January 2021 ordering the reduction of combat readiness and overall mobilisation. No further information on the implementation of the circular in practice could be found. [Military service, 2.3]

GoS is reported to view as political dissent the activities of wide categories of individuals, including draft evaders [Military service, 1]. Regarding recruitment methods, it was reported that the names of men called up for military service were recorded in so called ‘wanted lists’ and in central databases, which were also accessible to officers at mobile or fixed checkpoints. There is information that these data were also used in other government facilities or hospitals to call up conscripts. Other sources describe incidents of conscripts being identified and forcibly recruited during house searches or while having queued at bakeries in order to buy bread. As a result, draft evaders deliberately avoided leaving their houses, passing through checkpoints, interacting with state institutions, and seeking medical treatment, and were living in constant fear of forced recruitment. Paying bribes was reportedly a common method of evading military service, e.g. to have one’s name removed from wanted lists or to be waved through checkpoints. [Military service, 2.4]

Moreover, there are reports of draft evaders from former opposition-controlled areas who were considered disloyal to the army and threatened with harsher treatment after recruitment, such as being sent to the frontlines, physical abuse that amounted to torture, or in some cases even execution. [Military service, 2.5]

According to the Syrian Military Penal Code (Articles 98, 99), draft evaders are punished with one to six months of imprisonment in peacetime, after which they have to complete their military service in full. In wartime, draft evasion is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and individuals have to complete their military service. In practice, punishments are reportedly applied arbitrarily. Draft evaders are more likely to be arrested and sometimes detained for a short time before being sent to participate in active fighting. [Military service 4.1]

In December 2019, an amendment to Article 97 of the Military Service Act was issued. According to reports in February 2021, those who reached the age of 43 without having fulfilled their compulsory military service and without having paid the exemption fee within three months could be subjected to executive confiscation of assets without previous warning. [Military service, 4.1.1]

With regard to past amnesties, see 2.2.1 Military service: overview.

There are also reports of family members of those evading military service and deserters facing retaliation by GoS. Concerning family members of draft evaders, reports range from pressure and harassment to house searches, interrogations and arrests, with sources noting that family members of draft evaders from former opposition-held areas have been more severely harassed [Military service, 4.1.2, 4.2.1].

Risk analysis[11]


In accordance with Article 9(2)(e) QD, ‘acts of persecution [as qualified in paragraph 1] can, inter alia, take the form of: […] prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in a conflict, where performing military service would include crimes or acts falling within the scope of the grounds for exclusion as set out in Article 12(2)’.

In the case of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, where various excludable acts have reportedly been committed by the Syrian Armed Forces, in conjunction with the fact that the individual recruits and reservists generally have no control over their role within the armed forces, neither with regard to their place of deployment nor with regard to the assignment of specific tasks, this is found to apply [see the chapter 6. Exclusion]. Therefore, a well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.

Regarding the fact that there are no provisions for alternative service, and there is no right to conscientious objection except for Christian and Muslim religious leaders, a well-founded fear of persecution would also in general be substantiated for other persons who have evaded conscription on grounds of conscience. The individual assessment whether someone is a conscientious objector should look into whether the opposition to military service is motivated by a serious and insurmountable conflict between the obligation to serve in the army and a person’s conscience or his deeply and genuinely held religious or other beliefs, and constitutes a conviction or belief of sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.[12]

Other actions to which draft evaders could be exposed may also be of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. arbitrary arrest along with other forms of mistreatment such as physical violence, the risks associated with the treatment in detention facilities, including torture).

In the case of draft evaders, a well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated. While certain exemptions from military service are envisaged in law, their application in practice lacks predictability. Taking into account that amnesty decrees are limited in time and do not remove the obligation to perform military service, they would also generally not impact the level of risk associated with draft evasion.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information[13] indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.[14] It is for the competent national authorities to ascertain, in the light of all the circumstances at issue, whether that nexus is plausible on a case-by-case basis.[15] In the case of conscientious objectors, persecution may also be for reasons of religion.[16]


Article 9(2)(e) in conjunction with Article 9(3) of Directive 2011/95 must be interpreted as meaning that the existence of a connection between the reasons mentioned in Article 2(d) and Article 10 of that directive and the prosecution and punishment for refusal to perform the military service referred to in Article 9(2)(e) of that directive cannot be regarded as established solely because that prosecution and punishment are connected to that refusal. Nevertheless, there is a strong presumption that refusal to perform military service under the conditions set out in Article 9(2)(e) of that directive relates to one of the five reasons set out in Article 10 thereof. It is for the competent national authorities to ascertain, in the light of all the circumstances at issue, whether that connection is plausible.

EZ, para. 61 and fourth point of operative part



[11] See also CJEU, Andre Lawrence Shepherd v Bundesrepublik Deutschland, C‑472/13, judgment of 26 February 2015 (Shepherd), and EZ v Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, C‑238/19, judgment of 19 November 2020 (EZ). [back to text]
[12] See also EZ, paras.26-32. [back to text]
[13] The EZ judgment of 19 November 2020 is based on the situation in Syria in 2017. [back to text]
[14] See also EZ, para.60. [back to text]
[15] See also EZ, para.61. [back to text]
[16] See also EZ, para.26-32. [back to text]