Druze spiritual leader calls for enlistment in regime army

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Shortly after the Syrian army lost a crucial base in Daraa on Tuesday, a leading Druze spiritual authority in neighboring Suwayda province released an announcement calling upon all able-bodied young men to join the regime's ranks. “We direct a national and religious message to all the honorable young men who are able to carry weapons...to head to the recruitment centers,” Hikmat al-Hijri, head of the Sheikhs of Reason, whom Suwayda Druze consider a spiritual authority, wrote in the announcement circulated Tuesday. He assured potential recruits that they would only serve inside the province. Al-Hijri warned of the “the terrorism staring down” Suwayda province in the call for enlistment, referring to recent IS activity on the province's borders. Thousands of young Druze men are wanted for mandatory military service. The Druze of Suwayda did not send reinforcements to aid the regime in its fight to protect Busra a-Sham in nearby Daraa in March. Most Suwayda residents do not want to serve in the army, a defected Druze officer now living in Jordan says. A-Hijri's appeal “is at odds with popular sentiment towards refusing to serve in the regime's army,” Hafez Faraj told Syria Direct on Wednesday.