Because so many young men from across the Mideast are going off to fight in Syria, governments in the area are concerned that a generation may be radicalized. In response to concern about such radicalization has sent Mideast governments scrambling into action.
The Associated Press is reporting Saudi Arabia is enacting new laws and backing a campaign to stop its citizens from joining Syria’s civil war. King Abdullah issued a decree in the past month: Any citizen who fights abroad faces three to 20 years in prison. And anyone who incites people to join foreign wars can get five to 30 years.
The intention is to send a clear message that those who defy the law are to fight to the death and are not welcome back.
The move, in part, reflects pressure from Saudi ally the U.S., which wants to see the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad but is alarmed by the rising influence of hard-line foreign jihadists — many of them linked to al-Qaida — among the rebels.
The shift to criminalize fighting abroad is gaining traction in the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt’s military leadership has taken a stricter stand, and Bahrain is drawing up legislation. Tunisia said it has prevented 8,000 from going to Syria and is putting together a database to monitor hundreds of fighters who have returned.
Thousands of Muslims worldwide who went off to Afghanistan during the 10-year Soviet occupation returned home fired with the fervor of jihad and sought to overthrow their own, sometimes secular-leaning governments. Many established radical groups in Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Caucuses and elsewhere.
Tens of thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to Syria to take part in the war to topple Assad. Thousands of Shiites, including Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, have rushed to Assad’s defense.
A perpetually troubled country with a weak central government, Lebanon has been a prime victim of the spillover violence.