Syria army defector calls for ‘military aid’
İPEK YEZDANİ - email@example.com MIDEAST
Iraqi Kurds are seen holding a rally to protest the death of Syrian Kurdish opposition leader Meshaal Tamo in Arbil on Oct. 8. AFP photo
The international community and the United Nations should provide armed help to Syria’s opposition movement so that it can finally remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to a high-ranking military defector now staying in a Turkish refugee camp.
“If the international community helps us, then we can do it, but we are sure the struggle will be more difficult without arms,” Riad al-Asaad, a former colonel in the Syrian, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on Oct. 8.
“The international community has helped opposition forces in Libya but we have been waiting and suffering for seven months. The situation is less complicated in Syria than the situation in Libya but we haven’t received any help so far,” al-Asaad said. “It is like Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, it looks very strong from outside but it can be destroyed with one big strike.”
Al-Asaad is now staying in a refugee camp in the southern province of Hatay after escaping from his post in the Syrian Air Force in July. Some 7,608 refugees are currently sheltering in Turkish camps along the border with Syria.
The number of military defections in Syria is increasing, said al-Asaad, who is the leader of a group of similar defectors that are calling themselves the Free Syrian Army. “Right now there are more than 10,000 defectors in the Free Syrian Army, and the number is increasing day by day. Defecting soldiers are setting up ambushes against government forces to prevent them from entering the villages.”
Al-Asaad said the U.N. should support the Free Syrian Army with military means while also declaring some parts of the Arab republic’s air space as a “no-fly zone.”
Despite asking for help from outside, al-Asaad said many Syrians, including himself, did not favor a military intervention against the country. “Nobody is in favor of any foreign country’s intervention into Syria.”
Regime on its last legs
Al-Assad’s regime is weakening by the day, said the colonel. “They have started to use the Air Force against civilians now because they’ve realized that they can’t stop the demonstrations just with land forces.”
The colonel said the orders to kill Syrian civilians were being made directly by al-Assad and his brother, Maher al-Assad, who has his own fighting force conducting operations separate from the normal military. “The Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad would do anything to stay in power, they don’t care about killing many people.”
Al-Asaad also said he was in touch with the Syrian National Council which announced an alliance between various groups last week during a meeting in Istanbul and added that dissidents inside Syria were also supporting the council.
Recounting the story of his defection, al-Asaad said he was questioned in Aleppo in July and forced to confess that his own relatives were among the country’s “armed dissidents.”
“When they wanted to take me to Hama Airport, I realized that I was going to be killed there, and I escaped with my family to Jabal al-Zawiyah district. Then I fled Turkey,” al-Asaad said. “They don’t only arrest and kill the protestors, they also torture their families and relatives.”
Demonstrations against the regime, however, will not stop despite all the oppression and killings, he said. “People know that the torture and oppression will increase more if they give up.”