A prisoner swap between the Syrian government and rebels forces reveals what Bashar al-Assad's thinks the life of one of his own citizens is worth: About 2 percent of an Iranian's. The government agreed to release 2,130 Syrian and Turkish prisoners today, and in exchange, the Free Syrian Army will release 48 Iranian hostages that were captured by the rebels back in August. Officially, Iran continues to insist that the captives were religious pilgrims, but the FSA claims they are soldiers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard sent to fight against the rebels on behalf of Assad.
Most of the prisoners released by Syria were actually protesters detained after marching against the government and not rebel fighters who have actually done battle in the civil war. The prisoner swap was brokered by a Turkish humanitarian group. Even Iran's state media agency confirmed the news.
That "exchange rate" amounts to around 44 Syrians released for every one Iranian, but it also means that Assad negotiated to free an handful of Iranian soldiers before his own. A rebel spokesman claims there are thousands of government fighters and other Assad loyalists in rebel custody yet none of them will be involved in the swap. Given the obvious disregard that Assad has shown for the welfare of the people he supposedly rules, it's obviously more important to him to keep his few remaining allies happy than lookout for his own countrymen.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.