Prank call? Amid bloody war, Assad urges Syrians to pay phone bills

President Bashar al-Assad offered leniency for citizens to compensate their backdated dues

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Syrians aren't keeping up with their phone bills, President Bashar al-Assad has noticed.

The Syrian leader appeared to shift his attention from the three-year conflict when he issued a decree aiming to get citizens to pay their phone bills.

The leader issued a legislative decree pardoning subscribers of the Syrian Communications Establishment from interests and fees incurred on unpaid telecommunications bills, reported the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Assad's policy offers 50% off interest and fees if the invoice amount is paid in full, rather than installments, and applies only if customers pay by the end of 2014.

With near 2 million Syrians having fled to neighboring countries and almost 9.3 million in need of humanitarian aid according to USAID, it is little wonder how customers have failed to pay their bills.

Users can also reinstate their disconnected phone lines without penalty if they pay half of their dues.

The decree covers subscribers to landline telephone, telex, wireless devices, telephone circuits, and ship communication.

While internet and smart phone penetration in Syria was some of the lowest in the region before the start of the conflict, the devices played a decisive role in sparking the anti-Assad protests which quickly spiraled into the present day civil war the country is experiencing.

Earlier this month, the Assad regime posted another decree which stated it was illegal to take Syrian vehicles out of the country for sale. In a catch-22, the exemption only applied to cars that no longer work, making the sale and transfer of the car outside the country nearly impossible.

The fine for selling your working car is five times the price of the vehicle.

The ongoing Syrian conflict has persisted into its third year with little progress being made at this month's Syrian peace talks in Switzerland.