Syria's president has passed a decree legalising private security firms, faced with a 29-month armed revolt against his rule that has pinned down the police, state news agency SANA reported today.
President Bashar al-Assad's decree regulates "licencing for private companies that provide protection and guard duties ... To ensure the safety of individuals, establishments, property and the transport of cash, jewels and precious metals," said SANA.
One-year renewable licences are to be issued by the interior ministry, it said, but only to Syrian nationals with capital of more than USD 250,000.
"The interior minister will define the categories of arms to be used by each company, ranging from revolvers to rifles and others," said the agency.
The decree also stipulates that each company will be licenced to recruit between 300 and 800 guards.
A security source said that guards will have to wear a uniform, while the decree will allow security companies to open offices and issue employees with hand arms.
"Security guards will be in charge of protecting prominent personalities and businesses, while securing the transport of money," the source said on condition of anonymity.
Before Syria's conflict broke out in mid-March 2011, "these tasks were mainly assigned to the police. But because of the situation, now the police has other tasks," he added.
Alongside the anti-Assad uprising, Syria has been plagued by a spike in crime, kidnappings and robberies.