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Employees and students in Northern Homs: victims of false Russian and Syrian government promises

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Editing: Obaida Al Nabwani |
TranslationEditor: Farah Nassif |
Translation: Glory Jabr

 

Homs - SMART

In the past several years, the Syrian government has tried to restrict Syrians by all means available through siege, shelling, and arrest or through administrative procedures such as dismissing students and employees and issuing laws to seize forcibly displaced people’s property.

At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, the Syrian government issued decisions to dismiss hundreds of employees and students for various reasons, especially after it lost control of Northern Homs, Central Syria.

Agreement confirms return of students and employees to work

In early 2018, Russia and the civil and military committees in Northern Homs, Central Syria, reached an agreement to displace people who refuse to reconcile with the Syrian government to Northern Syria. At the same time, Russia undertook to preserve the lives of people who decided to remain in the area and prevent the Syrian government forces from arresting them.

According to the agreement, the reconciliation lasts six months and can be extended. During the settlement, the Syrian government may not arrest civilians or dissidents from its forces, nor can it enlist them to military service in its ranks. The Syrian government forces cannot enter the region throughout the duration of the reconciliation, while civil services are allowed to enter.

The agreement also included promises to settle the situation of students and employees and return them to their work and universities, taking into account the interruption of students’ study.

The media activist Yarub al-Dali, who attended the meetings of the agreement, said that on April 29, 2018, the Negotiations Committee met with a Russian delegation headed by the commander of the Russian military base Hmeimim, General Alexander Ivanov, in the town of al-Dar al-Kabira, with the Syrian government’s representative, Kinana Huwija, to discuss the settlement details.

Al-Dali added that the Russian side pledged to facilitate the return of employees and students to their work and universities. Huwija also confirmed that the Syrian government agreed. The local committees confirmed that people could return to their universities and jobs.

Syrian government prevents employees from returning to work

The Syrian government violated the agreement and rejected the requests of most dismissed employees to return to their previous jobs. The Syrian government didn't justify this action. 

One of the dismissed employees who settled with the Syrian government, Abu Khalid, told SMART that he had not been able to go to his job since 2013 due to the siege, the closure of roads, and fear of arrest.

Abu Khalid added that he had been dismissed because of his absence; he received this news through the salaried officer who informed one of his friends. Abu Khalid said that he stayed in the region because he the committee counsel promised they could return to their jobs.

After the reconciliation process, Abu Khalid submitted a request to return to his job. The National Security branch rejected his request two months later. Abu Khalid said that most of those dismissed received the same response, except those who had relations with Syrian government officials, and some teachers who the Syrian government needs due to the lack of educational staff in the Education Directorate.

A former employee of the Trade and Supply Directorate in Homs said that some employees were dismissed after they were absent from their jobs for 16 days. Others were terminated by a decision of a four-part security committee that included military security, state security, political security, and air security.

An employee from the Education Directorate said that the salaried officer informed that his termination was in part because the Syrian government accused him of belonging to what it calls “terrorist organizations,” according to the decision paper.

In the past years, hundreds of employees have been dismissed from their posts for several reasons, such as absence from work, or on charges of dealing with opposition factions in areas outside Syrian government control. However, there is no accurate statistic for the number of those dismissed due to the multiplicity of agencies responsible for them.

University students fear returning to study because of military recruitment

Contrary to what happened with the employees, the Syrian government committed to allowing students from the northern countryside to return to their universities but refused to give them documentation postponing military service.

An anonymous student from the al-Baath University in Homs told SMART that at the beginning of the revolution, some students from the so-called al-Baath Brigades arrested students from the University's campus. The al-Baath Brigades included armed young men and women, most of them students at the University.

The student said that he was no longer able to go to university, although he was in his final year. He recently settled with the Syrian government, and the university agreed on the return of the students. However, the military recruitment branch did not recognize this reconciliation and refused to give the students postponement of military service, so they are exposed to arrest at any time.

Another student at the university said he had been out of school since 2012 when he was in his first year. Recently, when he applied to return, he was forced to say in his application that he was unable to attend because terrorist groups prevented him. 

The student complained that the Syrian government did not give them a postponement of military service. He added that he addressed the Russian forces, the guarantor of the agreement, through the Negotiations Committee, but they did not receive any promises to consider the issue. The student said that about 35,000 young men, most of them are students, will be enlisted for recruitment by the end of the year.

On the other hand, a third-year female student at the Faculty of Arts told SMART that she explained her situation to the faculty and submitted a request to continue studying; her request was approved.

Syrian government takes advantages of state employees’ law to extort Syrians

Article 137 of Law No. 50 of the State Employees Law, issued in 2004, grants exceptional powers to the Prime Minister of the Syrian government. The Article allows the Prime Minister to issue dismissal orders against employees without mentioning the reasons in the text of the law. Article 135 of the same law also provides for the dismissal of employees due to absence.

Since the beginning of the revolution, the Syrian government has issued several decisions to dismiss employees from its institutions, including teachers and doctors, because they did not join military service. These decisions came even though these workers were urgently needed in their jobs. The Syrian government exploits the power available in its legislation, to use the law as a tool to extort anyone who does not comply with its policy.

However, Article 135 of the same law provides that an absentee employee can return to work if his/her absence is justified. The Syrian government did not comply with the provisions of the law in the case of the employees of the northern countryside of Homs and other areas. Many people believe that the Syrian government is trying to punish all the regions outside its control, in violation of all agreements and charters.