Syrian deputy minister defects, slams Assad
Oil official urges colleagues to get out
BEIRUT | Syria’s deputy oil minister defected and posted his parting words to President Bashar Assad in a video on Youtube Thursday, calling the regime criminal and urging his colleagues to also abandon the “sinking ship.”
Abdo Husameddine’s defection came at the height of international pressure against Mr. Assad’s regime as it tries to suppress an uprising now morphing into an armed insurgency, with the U.S. considering options for military intervention.
The deputy minister is the highestranking civilian official to abandon the regime since the revolt against Mr. Assad’s iron-fisted rule began a year ago.
“I don’t wish to end my life servicing the crimes of this regime,” Mr. Husameddine said in the video, dressed in a suit and tie and apparently reading from a piece of paper.
“This is why I have chosen to join the voice of righteousness, knowing that this regime will burn my home, persecute my family and come up with a lot of lies.
“I advise my colleagues who have been silent in the face of crimes for a year to abandon this sinking ship which is about to drown,” Mr. Husameddine said.
It was not clear when or where the video was made and he did not disclose his current location. There was no comment from the regime in Damascus.
“I declare that I am joining the revolution of the dignified people,” Mr. Husameddine said.
“You have inflicted on those you claim are your people a full year of sorrow and sadness, and denied them their basic rights to life and humanity and pushed the country to the edge of the abyss with your intransigence and detachment from reality. The economy of the country has reached near collapse,” he added.
Mr. Husameddine identified himself as an engineer and assistant to the oil minister. He said he was a member of the ruling Baath Party, but was now quitting, and added he had served 33 years in various government positions.
Cabinet ministers in Syria may have several assistants known as deputies.
Mr. Assad’s regime has suffered a steady stream of army defectors, who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands. But civilian government officials have remained largely loyal.
That made Mr. Husameddine’s defection all the more rare.
Among numerous military defections recently was that of Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-sheik, who fled to Turkey in January, becoming the highest-ranking officer to bolt.
In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected from the regime. Authorities reported he had been kidnapped and said he was being kept against his will by gunmen. He has not been heard from since.