Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), through the Friends Security Office, has been enticing Deir Ezzor youth to join its ranks with high salaries and other incentives, activists said.
But despite claims to the contrary, this only serves the Iranian regime and the IRGC who are using the youth as fuel for their expansionist ambitions in the region, they said.
Many youth from the eastern town of al-Mayadeen have joined IRGC-aligned militias in the region, Deir Ezzor activist Jamil al-Abed told Diyaruna.
The incentive has succeeded in attracting a number of youth from al-Mayadeen, he said, "who have ceased their service with the regime-affiliated National Defence Forces militia and have joined IRGC-affiliated militias instead".
Many of the new recruits have joined a militia established by the IRGC specifically for the region’s residents, he said.
Financial enticements were offered, including salaries of up to $200 in addition to grants, relief aid and the IRGC's assurance that they would not be pursued by the Syrian regime.
Recruits also were told they would be exempt from having to serve their mandatory military duty.
Al-Abed said this has become a noteworthy trend in the region in the recent period in the wake of the tension that has flared between the IRGC and the Syrian regime and their various affiliates.
The Friends Security Office recently issued several circulars announcing that grants would be extended to every member of the IRGC’s militias, he said.
According to these announcements, each newly married member would receive 50,000 Syrian pounds ($97), and every member with a child born in the current year would receive 200,000 Syrian pounds ($388).
The Friends Security Office is handling all the financial and in-kind grants and aid, as well as the recruitment paperwork, al-Abed said.
The new militia is made up of natives of Albu Kamal and al-Mayadeen in eastern rural Deir Ezzor, he said, and is affiliated with the Friends Security Office.
It is based in al-Suwayiyah, he added, which became a closed IRGC-controlled area after the IRGC evicted non-loyalists from their homes.
Claims of military service exemption are false
"The enrollment of Syrian youth in Iranian militias serves only Iran and the IRGC," Syrian lawyer Bashir al-Bassam told Diyaruna.
These militias are used to advance Iran's plans for expansion in Syria and the region, he said.
"The IRGC is turning Syrian youth into mere mercenaries and heightening internal tension," he said, adding that the IRGC's "relentless determination to recruit youth in the border area reveals its true ambitions".
The Iranian regime is trying to consolidate its control over areas of Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq, such as al-Mayadeen and Albu Kamal, in order to open up a passage to Lebanon and the Mediterranean through which it can funnel fighters and arms and expand trade.
Additionally, claims that the new recruits will be exempt from their mandatory military duty are false, al-Bassam said.
"On the contrary, it would only extend the length of the period of service as they would still have to serve their mandatory service that they missed," he said.
In late 2018, Syrian regime forces issued a circular in Deir Ezzor instructing all Syrians with IRGC-backed militias to cease serving with these militias and report to conscription and reserve duty centres.
The decree was met with opposition from those called for service as they had been promised by the regime and the IRGC that time served with the militias would be deducted from their mandatory service.