A Syria-based Russian security company – in collusion with the Syrian government- recruited no fewer than 3000 Syrians, both civilians and fighters, from various provinces as mercenaries to transfer them to Libya, where they are to fight alongside the Libyan National Army / LNA, commanded by the Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, against the Turkey-backed Government of National Accord / GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
The recruitment started in Suwaida province in December 2019, followed by Quneitra, Daraa, Damascus, its countryside, Homs, Hama, al-Hasaka, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor, while it notably adopted an accelerated pace in May 2020. The field researchers of Syrians for Truth and Justice / STJ reported that the recruitment was yet in progress when the report was being composed —namely on 30 June 2020.
Spearheaded by Russia, the process of recruitment coincided with the Turkish government’s enlistment of Syrian fighters and civilians as mercenaries, aided by Turkish security companies and the factions of the National Army, backed by and affiliated with the Syrian National Coalition, whom it transports to Libya to fight alongside the GNA against Haftar-led forces, as documented by a former STJ report.
In this extensive report, STJ provides overwhelming evidence backed by lengthy statements on the recruitment and transfer of rebels and civilians to fight in Libya, as well as detailed accounts on the transfer process.
The information obtained by STJ indicates that Syrian fighters were recruited under contracts providing each conscript with a salary of $800 to $1500, in addition to privileges, such as the vindication of persons involved in security issues, and are thus prosecuted by the Syrian government, or exemption from military service, reserve and mandatory, within the ranks of the Syrian regular army.
Also in this report, STJ discloses that several Syrian government-affiliated figures are involved in these recruitments, including “Sh. al-Sha’er”, director of the government-licensed Syrian National Youth Party’s Bureau, officials of the National Defense Forces in Suwaida province and commanders of the Russia-founded 5th Legion, which operates in southern Syria and encompasses former armed opposition fighters in particular, who joined the forces of the Syrian government after sealing a settlement/reconciliation agreement.
According to a number of eyewitnesses, particularly fighters, civilians and fighters are transferred to Libya onboard civilian airplanes of Cham Wings Airlines or attack aircraft departing from Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia. As for the landing, Syrian recruits reach one of the four following chief destinations in Libya: Benina International Airport, al-Khadim Air Base, al-Jufra Air Base and Bani Walid Airport.
Further yet, STJ documented the enlistment of two boys, under the age of 18, who got recruited and transferred to Libya without the knowledge of their parents in May 2020. On this note, an informed source in Deir ez-Zor reported that three other children were recruited around the same time. Nonetheless, STJ could not obtain additional details concerning the last reported cases.
In Eastern Ghouta, rural Damascus, another local source provided STJ with details on the recruitment of 8 other children under the age of 17 in early May 2020, three of whom were identified. A Quneitra-based media activist, for his part, reported that 12 children from the town of Mumtane, rural Quneitra, 14 to 17 years old, were also recruited, but the field researcher has not yet been able to identify them.
For the purpose of this report, STJ monitored news reporting the transfer of Syrian fighters to Libya by a Russian security company and conducted online interviews with (17) witnesses and sources informed of the matter. Of the witnesses, five are fighters who had been enlisted to fight in Libya, three of them were still in Libya when the report was being composed on 30 June 2020, a fighter recruited from Suwaida, who refused to travel later on, and another from Quneitra, who is still waiting to be transferred to Libya.
Four media activists informed of the situation in Daraa, Homs, rural Damascus, and Suwaida also provided testimonies, backed by the account offered by a woman from Daraa province, who witnessed the transfer of a number of fighters on the same plane she boarded to Libya.
STJ’s field researchers also met a source from the Arab “Harb” Clan in al-Hasaka, for a number of the clan’s men were recruited, in addition to two sources informed of the matter in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.
Regarding child recruitment, STJ’s field researchers interviewed the families of two enlisted children sent to fight in Libya from Deir ez-Zor province, along with two media activists from Eastern Ghouta and Quneitra.
Each of these interviews was conducted in a number of sessions via secure applications, starting in early May to late June 2020.
 “Turkey’s Recruitment of Syrian Mercenaries to Fight in Libya: Process and Legal Consequences”, STJ, 11 May 2020, (Last visited: 11 July 2020), https://stj-sy.org/en/turkeys-recruitment-of-syrian-mercenaries-to-fight-in-libya-process-and-legal-consequences/
 Formed in late 2016, the legion is considered the striking force of the Russian army in Syria. After the settlement in southern Syria entered into force in July 2018, most of the Syrian armed opposition fighters joined the legion under the leadership of Ahmed al-Awdeh, a former commander of the Shabab al-Sunnah/ Youth of Sunnah Forces of the opposition.