The Lionesses Of Syria: Assad Recruits Army Of Women As He Starts To Run Out Of Men
- Up to 500 women trained as soldiers for Assad's army
- They are decked out in army fatigues and armed with Kalashnikovs
- Critics say it is a propaganda tactic so rebels will be forced to kill women
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recruited an army of women to guard checkpoints and carry out security checks in an attempt to plug the holes left by defections and casualties in his dwindling army.
Up to 500 women have been drafted into the new paramilitary force known as the 'Lionesses for National Defence.'
They have been in trained at a boot camp in Wadi al-Dahab in the Syrian city of Homs.
They form part of the recently formed 10,000-strong National Defence Force (NDF), a key part of Assad's counter insurgency strategy, as the president desperately tries to regain control of the country's towns and cities.
Decked out in army fatigues and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, the women have also been seen guarding areas of Homs where the majority of locals are known to support the government's regime.
Part of their role is to carry out security checks on veiled women.
A grainy video uploaded four days ago to LiveLeak.com clearly shows at least ten women guarding a checkpoint in Palmyra, Homs
Abu Rami, a spokesman for the Syrian Revolution General Commission in Homs told The Independent: 'I was very surprised, it's the first time I have seen this.
'I think it is an excuse to make the Free Syrian Army kill women and then show the world as propaganda, but anyone with a weapon is a legitimate target.'
One Homs resident told Al Arabiya: The sight of these girls is disturbing.
'They look like predators and treat every woman that passes by as if she’s a slave or a Jew in the concentration camp.”
He said he saw one female soldier push an elderly lady in the area of Dawar Al-Muaslat in central Homs after forcing her to take off her headscarf.
It comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that there could be no peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria as long as opponents of President Bashar al-Assad demand his exit from power and refuse to negotiate with his government.
Lavrov's comments at an annual news conference signalled no shift in the position of Russia, which says Assad's exit must not be a precondition for a deal to end 22 months of violence in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.
'Everything runs up against the opposition members' obsession with the idea of the overthrow of the Assad regime. As long as this irreconcilable position remains in force, nothing good will happen, armed action will continue, people will die,' Lavrov said.
Russia has been Assad's most powerful foreign protector during the violence that started with a crackdown on protests but has escalated into civil war, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolution aimed to push him out or pressure him to end bloodshed.
Russia flew 77 of its citizens fleeing the Syrian violence to Moscow via Lebanon on Wednesday but Lavrov said the situation in Syria did not require a mass evacuation of Russian citizens.
Speaking of large-scale naval exercises Russia is holding in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Syria, Lavrov said the naval presence was a positive factor.
'Of course we have no interest in the Mediterranean region becoming even more destabilised. And the presence of our fleet there is undoubtedly a stabilising factor,' Lavrov said