Why is the world afraid of young refugee men?

Much of the rhetoric around refugees centres on whether young, male refugees need protection or pose a security threat.

Why is the world afraid of young refugee men?

World Bulletin / News Desk

Once a popular destination for tourists, Syria's coastal city of Tartus has seen little fighting during the five-year civil war that has engulfed the country.

Sitting in his room in a crowded refugee camp in the Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin, 29-year-old Adham, who asked not to give his surname out of fear for the safety of relatives back in Syria, recalls his reasons for leaving the city.

"There is no fighting in my city; there are no guns," he says. "But it's not safe for young men there. They are collected from the street and taken to the army. So, there are a lot of children, women and old men there and that's it."

For a year and a half, Adham, who worked as a marine engineer in Syria, dodged military conscription by leaving home and hiding in the houses of friends whenever recruitment officers came to deliver his army summons.

A charismatic young man with a broad smile and a tendency to make jokes, Adham sits on the unmade bottom bunk of his bed and assumes a sombre tone, fidgeting nervously as he recounts his flight from his homeland.

Although he was initially granted an official exemption from military service by the Syrian government after paying a fee, recruitment officers started returning to his home every four or five months.

"There was no solution, so I had to leave," he says. "There are a lot of young men leaving Syria because they don't want to be in the military. It's better than being Syrian and killing one another."

Evading military conscription in Syria is punishable with imprisonment - a looming threat that touches close to home for Adham, whose cousin died in custody after being locked up for refusing to join the army.

Syria's uprising started with largely unarmed protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but it quickly evolved into a full-scale civil war that has killed more than 270,000 people, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  

Efforts to mediate a ceasefire between rebel forces and the Syrian government have collapsed time and again.

Exhausted from the stress of dodging military recruiters and the trauma of seeing friends and neighbours return to Tartus in coffins, Adham decided to leave the country and make the perilous journey to Europe in January 2016.

Last Mod: 20 Haziran 2016, 13:29
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