News / Middle East

Syrian Defections Begin to Mount

Nawaf Fares, Syria's Ambassador to Iraq, in a picture taken December 7, 2006.
Nawaf Fares, Syria's Ambassador to Iraq, in a picture taken December 7, 2006.
In the last week, Syria's ambassador to neighboring Iraq and the commander of an elite Syrian Republican Guard unit have defected from President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The two join a growing number of high-ranking members of Syria's Sunni minority who have left the country recently, highlighting the increasingly sectarian nature of the 16-month-old conflict.

Here's a look at some recent deserters from Syria's political and military establishment:

Ambassador Nawaf Fares - July 11

Fares became the first Syrian envoy to defect from Mr. Assad's government since the uprising broke out in March 2011.

In a statement broadcast on the Arab-language satellite channel Al-Jazeera, the diplomat announced he had joined the opposition and resigned from Syria's ruling Ba'ath party. He urged "all honest members" of the party to follow his path "because the regime has turned it into an instrument to kill people and their aspirations to freedom and dignity." Fares also called on the Syrian military to "turn your guns on the criminals" of the government.

The Syrian foreign ministry said Thursday that Fares, who has close ties to the security services, has been relieved of his duties and should face "legal and disciplinary accountability." Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Fares is now in Qatar, one of the Gulf states overtly supporting the rebels and calling for Mr. Assad's ouster.

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass - July 6
Like Fares, Tlass was part of Syria's privileged Sunni elite in a government dominated by President Assad's minority Alawite sect. He is the son of an even more prominent general, former Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass, a confidant of President Hafez al-Assad, Mr. Assad's late father.

The highest-ranking military officer to have abandoned the Syrian government, Tlass was a member of the inner circle of power in Syria, and a childhood friend of Mr. Assad. He is reportedly headed for Paris, where his family and much of the Syrian political opposition is based, or is already there. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday Tlass has been in contact with the Syrian opposition but members of the exile Syrian National Council say it is not yet clear whether he will join the rebels.

Col. Hassan Hammadeh - June 21
The Syrian fighter pilot flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan, where he was given asylum in a defection from what is known to be Syria's fiercely loyal air force. Hammadeh had been on a training mission.

Imad Ghalioun - January 2012
Ghalioun, a member of Syria’s parliament, left the country to join the opposition, saying the Syrian people are suffering sweeping human rights violations.

Adnan Bakkour - August 2011
Bakkour, the former attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video in late August 2011 announcing he had defected.

These five join a wave of Sunni Muslim soldiers who have abandoned the Syrian army, many fleeing for neighboring Turkey or joining rebel fighters on the front lines. Thousands of soldiers have been killed or imprisoned because they attempted to escape and failed, or were suspected of planning to do so.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Alister from: UK
July 12, 2012 4:27 PM
with all the jubilation... let us not forget that all of these guys are war criminals... these are the refuse of that legitimized the corruption and decay of Assad...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid