Video Defector Urges Fellow Syrians To Do The Same

In a video posted early Thursday, a senior official in the Syrian Oil Ministry announced that he was defecting. If true, it would be a significant blow to the government of Bashar Assad.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. A video has surfaced purporting to show one of Syria's assistant oil ministers resigning. He charges in the video the Syrian regime with atrocities against its people, and he says that he has chosen to join the voice of righteousness. Abdo Husameddine urges his colleagues to do the same. If true, the resignation marks the highest-level defection since Syria's anti-government uprising began nearly a year ago. Since then, according to the U.N., almost 8,000 people have died. NPR's Kelly McEvers tells us more about the video.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ABDO HUSAMEDDINE: (Foreign language spoken).

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: In the video, the oil engineer accuses the Syrian regime of plunging the country into the abyss because of what he calls stubbornness, arrogance and a detachment from reality. Colleagues of Husameddine verified to NPR that the man in the video is who he says he is. They said they're not surprised by his defection, that he has been, quote, "with the revolution for some time." They say Husameddine comes from near the town of Qusair, which has long been a scene of protest and armed resistance to the government. They say Husameddine is a Sunni Muslim. The majority of Syrians are Sunni, but the regime is dominated by the minority Alawite sect.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

HUSAMEDDINE: (Foreign language spoken).

MCEVERS: In the video, Husameddine urges Alawites not to be partners with a regime that he says will soon be gone. Syria is different from other Arab uprisings in many ways but especially when it comes to defections. Analysts say that's because the Syrian state has spent decades instilling fear in anyone who dares oppose the regime. Last spring, when Syria's uprising was just a few months old, some low-level members of the ruling Baath Party announced their resignation. And low-ranking soldiers continue to defect to the ranks of rebel forces who are fighting against the government.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ADNAN MOHAMMAD AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken).

MCEVERS: Last summer, the attorney general of the central city of Hama reportedly defected. He released this video, blaming the Syrian regime for killing dozens of unarmed protesters. He even promised to provide evidence. But he hasn't been seen since then, and many Syrians say they believe he's been killed. Some even say he might have been captured by anti-government rebels and forced to defect. As with many stories from Syria, though, his case is difficult to verify. Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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