The decree, published by regime media, gives deserters - both within Syria and those outside the country - several months to report for duty without facing punishment. But there is fear the returnees would be tortured.
Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad granted general amnesty on Tuesday to army deserters both within Syria and those outside the country, a move that could boost the return of refugees who fled violence in their war-torn country.
The decree, published by regime media, said the amnesty did not include "criminals" and those on the run unless they turn themselves into authorities.
Deserters in Syria have four months to do so; those abroad have six months.
Since Syria's conflict began in March 2011, tens of thousands of people have either deserted their posts or defected and joined rebels trying to remove Assad from power. The amnesty also includes draft dodgers.
“Many people who went to the government for reconciliation then died inside prison. This chance for amnesty seems to be only for Assad supporters to go back home without a problem.” https://t.co/W3bUBpRwWS— Josie Ensor (@Josiensor) October 9, 2018
Fears the returnees would be tortured
The new amnesty does not include army defectors, some of whom are still fighting against the regime, mostly in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
The amnesty could encourage the return of refugees, some of whom have not been able to go back home because they were blacklisted for running away from military service.
Other men have feared that if they return they would be punished or forced to join the military.
I'm removing a few tweets on Assad's new decree on an amnesty for draft dodgers: https://t.co/Nba7LGUQNt. Conscription is super-important for many Syrian refugees, but, as @jbdacey noted, this decree appears to be recycled from past years. Don't want to blow it out of proportion.— Aron Lund (@aronlund) October 9, 2018
A million Syrians internally displaced
More than five million Syrians have fled their country since the conflict began, while a million others have been internally displaced. The seven-year war has also killed more than 400,000 people and left more than a million wounded.
The decree comes at a time when regime forces have managed over the past year to capture wide areas once held by armed groups, including in southern Syria and the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
In some areas, the regime reached reconciliation deals with rebels who were given amnesty in return for amnesty.
Assad grants amnesty to army deserters w/in #Syria & those outside. Deserters in Syria have 4 months to do so; those abroad have 6. It could help return of refugees, some not able to go back bec blacklisted (Amnesty unlikely to allay fears; people want intl security guarantees)— Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) October 9, 2018
Demilitarised zone agreed with Turkey and Russia
The flashpoint in Syria is now in Idlib, where opposition groups and rebels have been withdrawing their heavy weapons from a demilitarised zone agreed upon between Turkey and Russia last month.
The deal sought to avoid a wide government offensive on the province.
On Monday, Anadolu Agency reported that Syrian rebels finished withdrawing all their heavy weapons from the front lines in the implementation of the deal reached last month that's expected to demilitarise a stretch of 15-20 km along the front lines by October 15.