Large fees to avoid military conscription have helped turn Syria’s diaspora into a major source of revenue for the cash-strapped government.
Men who don’t pay face the threat of their family’s assets in Syria being seized.
Early this year, Yousef, a 32-year-old Syrian living in Sweden, found himself faced with an impossible choice: Either enlist in the army of the government that made him a refugee, or risk his family losing their home back in Syria.
Military service is mandatory for Syrian men between the ages of 18 and 42, and the stakes rose significantly in February when an army official announced on Facebook that a new regulation would allow authorities to confiscate the property of “service evaders” and their families.
Pressure was mounting on Yousef to decide. And so, in June, he made his way to the Syrian Embassy in Stockholm with $8,000 in cash, ready to pay the fee to have his name taken off the conscription rolls. A shiver ran down his spine as he collected his receipt.