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Iran to crack down on evaders of military service

Conscription chief says up to 35,000 people have been arrested this year for dodging service
The size of Iran's armed forces is currently estimated at over half a million (AFP)

Iranian authorities are to start arresting young men who attempt to avoid the country's compulsory 24-month military service.

General Moussa Kamali, chief conscription officer for the Iranian armed forces, told local newspaper Tasnim on Sunday that, since the start of the current Iranian month of Khordad in late May, more than 10,000 people have applied to pay absence fines rather than serve in the military.

Mandatory military service for young men in Iran starts at age 18, and most are expected to complete 24 months of service in a variety of positions.

Men who reach their 19th birthday without having served or being officially exempted are currently forbidden from applying for a passport or driving licence, and from leaving the country without special permission.

However, families who can afford to are able to pay absence fines for their sons to be exempted.

Speaking to Tasnim, though, Kamali – who has previously warned that not enough young men are joining up to Iran's armed forces – said authorities are actively enforcing conscription laws that allow people to be arrested if they fail to enlist or pay the absence fines.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 people have already been arrested this year for attempting to dodge military service, Kamali said.

“The process of identifying and arresting fugitives will be intensified this year,” Kamali said.

Members of Iran's armed forces are currently deployed in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, it is not known whether Iranian nationals completing their military service have been deployed there – the majority of low-ranking soldiers sent to Syria by Iran are alleged to be Afghan refugees living in Iran who are enticed to fight with by high wages and promises of Iranian citizenship once they complete their service.

Last year a senior military officer, Mohammad Akbar Halvaee, told an audience at Tehran University that compulsory military service was harming the country's economy, and that the armed forces could operate with 200,000 personnel rather than the over 500,000 people currently employed.