Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Syria: Follow-up to SYR41280.E of 11 April 2003 on the treatment of Sunni Muslims in the military

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 5 May 2003
Citation / Document Symbol SYR41551.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Syria: Follow-up to SYR41280.E of 11 April 2003 on the treatment of Sunni Muslims in the military, 5 May 2003, SYR41551.E, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the Syrian Human Rights Committee, based in London, United Kingdom, Sunni Muslims "absolutely" suffer from discrimination and other ill-treatment in the military (27 Apr. 2003). The Committee also provided the following information:

Commanders of arms and military divisions are mostly Alawite. They were the actual rulers of the army and the partners of the late al-Asad in power. Now, they are the actual rulers of the army and country because the new al-Asad stems his power from theirs.

The file and ranks and the soldiers of the Syrian army are not sectarian or elite. They are essentially Sunni because they constitute the majority (approximately 76% of the Syrian population). However they are under the command of Alwaite officers. There is a sense of bilateral hatred between the two sides. Officers suppress, subjugate and humiliate soldiers.

Syrians are requested to make an obligatory 30-month military service. It becomes due at the age of 19 years. University students are given leaf until they become graduate. Once they are in the service, they narrate their bitter experience. The army is the major and biggest incubator where discrimination, suffering and sectarian feeling grows in Syria. ...

Sunni soldiers usually spend their service in the front, engaged in hard training, living in tents and facing a lot of dangers and deprivation. They are allowed to visit their families rarely, sometimes a couple of days every three or four months. Whilst Alawite soldiers serve in section offices and headquarters, where they have more advantages and less risks and labour.

Sunni Soldiers who happened to observe prayers or any religious practices usually face grave punishments and consequences, which may [result in] prison [sentences] or even in some cases [the] death penalty, because their religious rites do not satisfy their Alawite commanders.


The army is apparently decorated by some uninfluential Sunni officers, such as the minister of Defense, General Mustafa Talas, whilst the true power lies in the hands of his Alawite deputies (Syrian Human Rights Committee 27 Apr. 2003).

This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Syrian Human Rights Committee, London, UK. 27 April 2003. Correspondence.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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