Country Listing

Syria Table of Contents


Conditions of Service, Morale, and Military Justice

The general atmosphere and the amenities associated with military life have steadily and considerably improved since 1946. With rare exceptions, Syrian government and political leaders have recognized the need for favorable conditions of service so as to maintain the loyalty of their primary source of power. Officers, for example, were reported to be able to buy automobiles without the usual 200-percent duty and to obtain interest-free government loans for down payments on living quarters.

The life of the ordinary soldier, however, was not an easy one. His daily routine was concentrated and arduous, and discipline was strict and often severe. However, a long-range program of construction and rehabilitation, initiated during the early 1960s, improved the living conditions on many bases. In 1987, quarters, food, and pay compared favorably with what a worker could obtain in the civilian economy. Accrual of leave, retirement, medical care, and other benefits also made military service attractive. There were no reliable figures on military pay available in 1987, but the indications were that rates were relatively high by the standards of many other Arab armies. There were also supplementary allowances for both officers and enlisted men, which in many cases totaled more than the basic rate. For example, various specialists, both officers and enlisted, received substantial amounts of technical pay. Additional compensation for flight personnel, paratroops, and men engaged in other kinds of hazardous duty had been established.

Improved conditions of service have improved morale in the ranks. The relative political stability of the 1970s and 1980s has also raised morale. The previous three decades had witnessed frequent changes of government by military coups d'état, leading to purges, imprisonments, or the execution of officers associated with the deposed regime. Under Assad, the top army ranks have felt more secure. The ambitious rebuilding of the armed forces also increased the prestige and morale of the military. Nevertheless, by early 1987, the eleven-year-old occupation and frequent fighting in Lebanon were reportedly affecting the army's morale. Frequent rotation of troops limited exposure to an unsatisfactory military situation and the corrupting influences of the war-torn Lebanese environment and reduced periods that soldiers were away from their families.

As in the past, in 1987 the typical enlisted man, whether a conscript or a volunteer, came from a traditional authoritarian Muslim family and accepted discipline as a regular requirement of military life. A system of military courts existed to try cases involving disciplinary and criminal offenses in the armed forces. Although the information available in 1987 was incomplete and somewhat dated, observers noted the existence of two kinds of military courts. In one, a single judge heard cases involving routine disciplinary matters and minor criminal offenses. The other, which was composed of three judges, tried felonies and other major crimes. Judges in both courts were officers who had earned a law degree. Two additional military courts--the State Security Court and the Supreme State Security Court--were established in the early 1970s to hear cases involving breaches of security, i.e., political crimes (see Crime and Punishment , this ch.). Both civilian and military personnel were subject to trial by these special courts.

Data as of April 1987