Syria Prime Minister Said To Defect

Activists have reported that Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab has defected and that he and his family are now in Jordan, in a further sign of the disarray that has befallen the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as the uprising continues into its seventeenth month. Reports of Hijab’s defection came hours after a bomb exploded at a state television station in Damascus; last month, a bomb took the lives of four top-level security officials.

Syrian state media had previously reported that Assad had dismissed Hijab, who was named Prime Minister just three months ago after serving as agriculture minister. Omar Ghalawanji, a longtime official who has been deputy prime minister, was immediately announced as Hijab’s replacement.

Rising Number of Defections

In a statement in Al-Jazeera, Hijab said that he has “joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution” and is now a “soldier in this blessed revolution.” Like Syria’s former minister to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, who defected last month, Hijab is from Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told the New York Times that, while Hijab’s departure does not “necessarily affect the basic security apparatus and the army, which is still holding the country together,” it is a sign of “advanced decrepitude” in Assad’s regime and the “beginning of an end game sort of thing.”

Hijab would be the first cabinet minister to defect. Three other ministers are said to have defected along with Hijab including Finance Minister Mohammad Jalilati, who was reportedly arrested as he tried to flee, says the BBC. But Syrian state media countered that Jalilati was “still in his office working as usual.” A total of thirty other generals have defected to Turkey and on Monday, the Turkish news agency said that another general, along with five high-ranking officers and thirty soldiers, has also done so.

Bombings and a Propaganda War

The bombings in Damascus are “another sign of the rebels’ ability to breach state institutions,” says the New York Times. Two days ago, the rebels took control of a television station in Aleppo, suggesting that they are “prioritizing control of information in their effort to topple the regime and attract international recognition.”

Certainly the difficulty to obtain accurate information about the situation in Syria has characterized the uprising since it began in March 2011. The Syrian government imposes strict restrictions on foreign journalists reporting from its borders and the state television station has continued to show a “gray-haired host delivering upbeat pronouncements about the war against ‘terrorists.’”

Through the internet, the opposition has often been able to offer a version of events that can be completely opposite to that depicted by the government.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in the midst of a multi-nation tour in Africa, will be traveling to Turkey this week for previously unscheduled meetings with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials, a sign of a “worsening security and diplomatic impasse.”

In addition, Iran is denying that 48 Iranians seized by Syrian rebels over the weekend include members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. The rebels, who belong to a brigade that acted on its own without telling the Free Syrian Army, say that the Iranians were on a reconnaissance mission in Damascus. Tehran, which is a close ally of Assad’s, says that they are pilgrims who were en route to the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab and that the group includes women and children. The Iranian government is negotiating for their release.

Related Care2 Coverage

Syria: Obama Signs Covert Order Authorizing Support For Rebels

200,000 Flee Aleppo; Syria’s Economy Withering

US, UK Fear Massacre in Aleppo By Syrian Army

Photo by FreedomHouse2


Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y5 years ago

Reuters and AP have now confirmed this. Basically the only thing propping up the regime is Russian military equipment. Post-Cold War Russia has this complex about 'resurgence' and supporting its regional allies - major Russian naval base in Syria. They still haven't come to terms with the reality of the Arab Spring and what it means for the region.

Robert Ludwig
Robert Ludwig5 years ago

Roaches... Light... just say'n.

John W.
John W.5 years ago

Kapil Komireddi, New York Times, August 3, 2012

[Komireddi, an Indian journalist, has written from South Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.]

Damascus - The day begins here with the call to prayer and ends with the roar of gunfire. Syria's pluralistic society, which once rose above sectarian identity in a region often characterized by a homicidal assertion of religious belief, is now faced with civil disintegration and ethnic cleansing.

In Bab Touma, the Christian quarter of the old city, the magnificently restored Ottoman mansions housing many of the hotels that only two years ago overflowed with Western tourists have become temporary sanctuaries for Syrian minorities fleeing their homes and cities.

A Christian doctor of Palestinian origin huddling with his family of four in a small room in one of the hotels was looking for a way out of the country: "My father came to Syria as a refugee," he told me. "I made it my home. Now I am having to uproot my two young sons."

His home, in Midan in southern Damascus, came under attack during an intense battle last week between the opposition Free Syrian Army and government forces. Midan is now officially a safe area, but hardly anyone believes that peace will endure.

Syria's 2.3 million Christians, constituting about 10 percent of the country's population, have generally known a more privileged existence under the Assad dynasty than even t

Michael C.
Michael C5 years ago

It would seem that the majority of you, have become rather beleaguered, no longer capable of processing information, to absorb, or to act upon it. No surprise, after 8 years in a Guantanamo like state...each day being propagandized by the State Media, FOX News, I am not surprised.

You do disappoint me though, all the years of education, all the years leading to your maturation, all for NOT.

I have present for all of you, though many will not appreciate it, in at least 2 ways.

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has close, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
Rather, its citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly do so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
Julius Caesar

Ask yourselves this question, where do you reside? Are you free to think or your a slave to all that you have lost? Will you ever again know freedom or does that only come with your death?

Uhane Pono
Uhane Pono5 years ago

Ship sinks
rats jump off

Linda T.
Linda T5 years ago

If this is true it is good news for the Syrian people.

Deborah F.
Deborah F5 years ago


John B.
John B5 years ago

The Asaad regime is slowly crumbling, but in the mean time innocent individuals are got in the bloodbath and those are the people my heart and thoughts go out to. Thanks Kristina for providing the update.

Nicole Weber
Nicole W5 years ago


Steve R.
Steve R5 years ago

Yup - that's what happens when a regime is starting to go down.

Let me see.... how many members of the Obama regime have already jumped ship?