Prisoners in the sweltering, overcrowded Adra prison on the outskirts of Damascus were presented in June with an unusual offer from the Syrian regime, which promised amnesty if they agreed to fight on the front lines.

About 200 inmates decided to risk their fate on the battlefield rather than serve out long sentences in dismal conditions, according to army officers, a lawyer who represented some of the prisoners and other people with knowledge of the deals.

Even as airstrikes by the regime’s Russian allies bolster its fortunes, the Syrian military’s ranks are severely diminished by death, defection and draft dodgers, and stretched thin on multiple fronts. As a result, it is not only freeing prisoners but also ordering state employees and teachers into battle.

Checkpoints in cities are increasingly manned by minors, older men or young men with medical conditions that should exempt them from military service. Residents in Damascus have reported seeing even Russian, Afghan and other foreign soldiers at checkpoints, something that was unheard of until this year.

The mass enlistment, though meant to address a weakness, reflects the ambitions of an emboldened regime that is benefiting from strong support from Russia, Iran and allied Shiite militias, and is trying to maintain its own forces.

Read More- The Wall Street Journal

Image courtesy of Reuters