Today, TIME Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor interviewed two Syrian soldiers who defected from the military in protest of the regime’s killing of civilians. Col. Hussein Harmoush describes how his conscience was weighing on him and how he wishes he had joined the side of the people earlier:
“I defected from the Syrian Arab army and took responsibility for protecting civilians in Jisr al-Shughour,” he says. “I was late in taking this decision.” His lower lip quivers. He struggles to maintain his composure. After a long pause, and several deep breathes, the man with the thinning salt-and-pepper hair resumes: “I feel like I am responsible for the deaths of every single martyr in Syria.”
Syrian soldier Darwish Mohammed Fidou deserted after witnessing the deaths of civilians and being ordered to gun down his countymen. He paid a bribe to escape a military base and joined the protesters:
“My heart is broken to watch my people die, the Syrian people die, to see such a thing as this,” says Fidou. “It was the same when I had orders to shoot on the people – it broke my heart.” [...] Fidou had had enough, however, and paid a bribe for a slip of paper – which he still keeps in his pocket – that allowed him to temporarily exit the base on May 15. Leaving everything behind, he fled, eventually passing through Jisr al-Shughur, where he joined anti-regime protesters.
In addition to the stories, there have been numerous other reports of soldiers deserting and joining the protest movement. Dissent among the ranks of the military will be an important factor in deciding the fate of the regime. Recall that senior Egyptian military officers refused President Mubarak’s orders to massacre nonviolent protesters, a key factor to the triumphs in that country.