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Syria's Assad promises jobs to relatives of killed soldiers

New law seen as response to mounting resentment among government supporters amid increase in deaths of pro-Assad fighters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C) talking with troops during a reported visit to the eastern Damascus district of Jobar on 31 December 31, 2014, (AFP/HO/SANA)

Syria will award 50 percent of vacant government posts to relatives of soldiers and government employees killed or paralysed in the country's conflict, according to a law issued on Wednesday.

The law, decreed by President Bashar al-Assad after passing parliament earlier in the week, comes as the death toll among Syrian government troops grows.

More than 44,200 Syrian soldiers have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

"With this law, 50 percent of the posts in the public administration will be reserved for the relatives of martyrs," state news agency SANA said.

It added that those eligible would have to pass exams, where necessary.

The law defines as "martyrs" any soldier, policeman, pro-Assad militiaman or public servant "if they died during the war, military operations or because of terrorist gangs."

The law will also cover people in those categories who have been paralysed or blinded in the conflict.

Relatives eligible for the government posts include the parents, spouses and children of those killed or wounded.

Around 28,000 members of the National Defence Forces, a pro-Assad militia, have been killed since Syria's war broke out.

The government's losses have caused growing resentment among government supporters, including in the Alawite community to which Assad belongs.

Majority-Alawite Tartus on the Mediterranean coast has suffered the highest proportional loss of soldiers of any province in Syria. 

It has come to be known as "the capital of martyrs" by Assad supporters.

To boost supporters' morale, Assad has reportedly made a rare visit troops stationed in the eastern Damascus district of Jobar on Wednesday.

Assad has recently intensified efforts to mobilise reservists, in order to make up for the loss of soldiers who are deserting his army or draft-dodging.   

These efforts include sweeping arrest campaigns against those who attempt to avoid serving in his army.

"In October, the regime stepped up activations of reserve forces. Tens of thousands of reservists have been called up, and soldiers and militiamen have erected scores of checkpoints and increased raids on cafes and homes to apprehend those reservists who refuse to comply. Similar measures increasingly target those who avoid regular military service, a compulsory 18-month period for all men who are 18 and older," wrote Hugh Naylor in the Washington Post.

"In recent weeks, the regime also began upping threats to dismiss and fine state employees who fail to fulfil military obligations, according to Syrian news Web sites and activists. In addition, they say, new restrictions imposed this fall have made it all but impossible for men in their 20s to leave the country," he added.

Syria's civil war began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement inspired by the Arab Spring and demanding Assad's ouster, but morphed into a brutal war after pro-Assad forces unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.

The war has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people, and displaced roughly half of the country's population, according to the UN. 

The majority of fatalities are reportedly of civilians, primarily killed by pro-Assad forces, although other groups are also implicated.