News / Middle East

    Reports of Syrian Defections Signal Further Splits

    This undated amateur video image posted on the internet and shown on Syrian state television shows a Syrian policeman lying on the ground apparently dead from gunshot wounds in Jisr al-Shughour, northern Syria. (AP cannot independently verify the location
    This undated amateur video image posted on the internet and shown on Syrian state television shows a Syrian policeman lying on the ground apparently dead from gunshot wounds in Jisr al-Shughour, northern Syria. (AP cannot independently verify the location

    Reports of defections among Syrian security personnel are raising questions about how well the leadership can control the moral, religious and political factors influencing people in the country. 

    Elite forces of Syria's security apparatus are said to be converging on the town of Jisr al-Shughour, in the aftermath of what the government says was the ambush and killing of 120 of its forces by "armed gangs."  

    But witnesses in the region counter the official report, saying that the victims included soldiers who balked at orders to open fire on protesters, and were killed by government loyalists.

    Reports of Syrian Defections Signal Further Splits
    Reports of Syrian Defections Signal Further Splits

    Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry says it is very hard to confirm these reports, because Jisr al-Shughour has been largely cut off from the rest of the world and access to residents who fled to neighboring Turkey has been restricted.  But he says there have been precedents.  

    "Based on what we've seen in other towns where we have managed to do a lot more research, in southern Syria, in Daraa, for example, we know there have been some defections and in some cases some soldiers have come under fire from the security forces for defecting," said Houry.

    Political observers believe some of these soldiers may have been shocked when they encountered ordinary people, rather than the thugs and terrorists the government said were behind the unrest.

    Abdelaziz Sager is the chairman of the Gulf Research Center in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

    "The government may have deceived the people by not really providing the real information on security officers being directly involved and so it happened to be innocent people, peaceful demonstrations where people were demanding real, legitimate demands and they saw the oppression the government decided to use against them.  This may be an important element [that] made them decide," said Sager.  

    For rank-and-file soldiers, those protesters are often very much like themselves, from middle, to lower-middle income families, with no connection to the minority Shi'ite Allawite leadership of the mainly Sunni country.

    Assad's 'family business'

    According to political analyst Sager, this collapse in keeping the country firmly under the control of the ruling Assad family can be pinned on the current generation led by President Bashar al-Assad.    

    Sager argues that the president's father, Hafez al-Assad, rallied Sunnis and even Christians under the Baath political banner of Arab nationalism - while also employing massive oppression.  The current Assads have had to fall back on just oppression, but how far to use that, according to Sager, is a matter of debate and nervousness within what he calls "the family business."  

    "Some may want to go for reforms," he said. "Others may believe if you do reform, this is it, this will lead only to much more deterioration and more concessions.  Others believe using a strong force, using the security method may work better and this is what we have seen now in the divisions and diversity between the approaches that each one with his background and his character is playing things.  But, in the end, both know they are all losers. In the end, they know they lose - they all lose."

    The continued protests in the face of the brutal crackdown - human rights observers believe some 1,300 people have been killed in the past three months - would seem to indicate the Assad family's options are becoming increasingly limited.     

    "The main factor for the government crackdown has been anyone protesting against the government or anyone who's not towing the line completely," said Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry.

    The risk of such a blunt tactic is that it only creates more opposition to the government, as the recent defections in the security forces appear to signal.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora