Friday 1st June 2012
He was serving in the area of Al-Sanamin when the Syrian revolution broke out. When First Lieutenant Abdulrazzak Tlass heard for the first time the voices of the demonstrators from his residence, he found himself without much thought, driving his car to the scene of the demonstration, wandering around the demonstrators, looking in astonishment and admiration at the courage of these young Syrians. At that moment, he realized that these young men have crossed the fear barrier that the regime has imprisoned the Syrians behind for so long, which he also recognized from within the Military establishment to which he belongs.
A few days later, accompanied by a group of his fellow officers, they drove on wandering around the demonstrators, who suspected their car to be that of informants. The young men [the demonstrators] surrounded Tlass and his colleagues and attempted to assault them. Tlass, however, ascended the back of the car, bared his chest and addressed the crowds screaming “I am with you.. I am Abdulrazzak Tlass of Al-Rastan [a city in the Governorate of Homs, Central Syria]” The demonstrators drew back after verifying his identity. Tlass calls that moment, the ‘First defection from the Army’.
Abdulrazzak Tlass, who hails from the city of Al-Rastan, describes his childhood as normal and quiet, and his adolescence as harboring some mischief. During this dialogue in the first anniversary of his defection from the Syrian regime’s Army (which coincides with May 30th), he made me feel that his simplicity and modesty are never less than his courage which is know to the Syrians.
> How and why did the idea of defection occur to you, was it under the influence of any of those around you or was it a personal decision?
– Since the beginning of the revolution, which started from the city of Dara’a, I have participated in many demonstrations in the cities of Al-Sanamein, Enkhel, and Jasem without anyone taking notice of my identity. I defected from the regime’s army in the demonstration squares of the city of Al-Sanamein, but I kept my decision to myself believing that I would better serve our cause from within the Army than to align myself and stand with the civilian revolutionaries. My thoughts and dreams reached to the limit of a military coup. I tried more than once to do something, but the Security control within the army prevented any officer from performing any major act that would hurt the regime from within the army. After that, the only step available to me was my individual defection, in order to avoid finding myself in a position of confrontation with military orders that my humane conscience would compel me not to obey, so I took my complete armament and joined the revolution. Today, I consider the real reason for my defection was the influence of the sense of dignity and freedom in the eyes of the demonstrators, and the chants [I heard] while being among them, demanding freedom and decent living. It was them who made me align myself with them and decide to contribute in protecting them until they achieve their legitimate demands.
> Given the revengeful nature of the regime, have you considered the consequences of your defection on your family?
– Of course this issue caused concern to me for some time. Like everyone else I am emotionally attached to my family, and I fear for their safety from any harm. Yet I rationalized that my family, like all Syrians whose morals rest on goodness and justice, would not want for me to side with those against the people. I always thought that all Syrians would pay the price of their demand for freedom. The Syrian families that sacrificed their blood and their children’s blood are no different from my family. However; in the beginning, I faced some pressures that reached being renounced by some relatives and friends, fearing the wrath of the regime if it became aware of their relation to me, but this faded with time and with the evolution of the revolution.
> You are young, and you enlisted in the army a few years ago. This army was and is still the regime’s army, and its composition has not changed throughout the years you have spent there. Did you discover the army’s structure and affiliations after enlisting?
– The structure of the army has been the same for many years. It is the army of a corrupt regime; and a corrupt regime can never produce anything but a pertaining, corrupt army. The regime has no goal but to retain power, monopolize the financial benefits, and control the country’s economy. All this is reflected in the attitude of most army officer, where bribery, thievery and nepotism condemn the officer to being cheap and degrade his dignity in front of himself, his soldiers and his environment in general. In any case, an honest officer in the Syrian Army is considered an abnormality. One of the anecdotes that happened to me during my service in the army is that I once needed a few bags of cement, and when I bought and paid for them in full, the merchant was surprised (he was from the city of Enkhel), and he told me that he is unaccustomed to such a behavior of army officers. Of course, these ethics that prevail among army officers will never change in the existence of this authority that needs slaves more than it needs people with dignity. As for me personally, I certainly did not have any idea about relations within the Syrian Army when I enlisted, and I used to perceive the matter from the perspective of a young man dreaming of becoming an officer with the known outlook of officers in most world armies. Yet, the peculiarities of the composition of the Syrian Army began to unfold gradually to me.
> How do you deal with the accusations of regime’s media and loyalists?
– The regime tried so many times to smear my image, due to the fact that I was one of the first officers to defect. In the beginning, they claimed that I was deserting soldier with no rank. Yet now, they do confess that I am an officer, probably because the media has lost track of what they called me almost a year ago. In all cases, me and my fellow defecting officers are a fact now, and no one will pay attention to the fabrications of the regime’s media, which was described by Syrians as being lying and treacherous.
> What would a young officer, such as you, say to the regime loyalists regarding their fear of the future?
– I would echo what all Syrians have been saying since the beginning of the revolution: No injustice or unfairness shall fall upon any Syrian because of their religious or sectarian orientation, nor because of their opinion. Yet, whoever has claimed lives of Syrians, tortured them, stole their properties and possessions, or enriched by abusing public money will most certainly be put to fair and just trials. However, I do believe that amnesty should be granted to whoever repents today and decides to renounce his actions and truthfully stand before God, his people and his family, and join the freedom seeking Syrians.
> What difference do you see today between Abdulrazzak Tlass, the First Lieutenant who was in the regime’s army (and is one in tens of thousands similar to him), and Abdulrazzak Tlass, the famous officer that is revered by a large portion of Syrians as a beloved folk hero?
– Morally, nothing has changed in me. Even when I was an officer, I would never succumb to any temptations, and I have never undertaken any action to be ashamed of. Today, I serve my country without thinking about anything personal. The only difference is that I am happy now, because I live in environments and places which I love and which love me in return; and I live among people with whom I share mutual trust and affection, where I am not compelled to hide my opinions. I consider all that has happened to me over the past year a blessing from God the almighty, for which I praise Him. I shall cherish this blessing along with the love of the people for the rest of my life.
> How do you live with the reality that nowadays you are constantly on the move, and your personal security is at risk at all times?
– Since my defection, I was aware and had my mind set, that I was subject to martyrdom at any moment. At an early stage, I knew that if I thought about this matter, I would never be able to accomplish anything. Nowadays, my concern is to work on protect my people. As for my own personal safety, I apply the standard precautions implemented by the rebels on the ground. However, sometimes I feel that with the grace of God and my parents’ contentment, I face death fearlessly in some confrontations.
> What goes through your mind when you see the destruction that has fallen upon your city Al-Rastan, where you grew up and where your memories are?
– Of course, for me today it is the same as any other city that has resisted the regime. Yet, it possesses a special place in my heart since it is where I hail from and I am proud of belonging to it. I thank God for growing up in this city, and have memories in all its streets and a lot of the destroyed houses, and in the farms and orchards there. I am proud of this affiliation. And today, this city has become the pride of its people and all Syrians because of its revolt. However, every wound that falls upon Al-Rastan provides me with more determination to participate with the rebels in swiftly overthrowing the regime.
> Recently, there has been a debate among Syrian Revolutionary intellectuals (despite their unanimous admiration of you) about your beard, which some say, bears indications of your affiliation with a certain current, while they need you to be a hero to all Syrians. How did you contemplate this matter, and what is your response to them?
– Some of these discussions have been brought to my attention, so I would say to those interested (often in good faith), that the beard is a matter of personal choice. I hope that whoever is judging a person by his appearance rather than his behavior would be more open-minded in understanding people’s individual liberties. Moreover, I would ask them in return: does my behavior suggest that I am serving a certain current or party? Or wasn’t I on the ground with all the Syrians fighting for all Syrians?.. I would like to declare, loud and clear, that I am a Muslim, only a Muslim, like any other Muslim who practices his religious duties towards his God.
> How was your relationship with the civil environment in which you have lived through the past year?
– Since before the revolution, I maintained a friendly relationship with everyone. I consider myself to be blessed with the affection of people I encounter, whether relatives, neighbors or friends. Even within the environment of my work, I never had enemies. This continued during the revolution, where people have overwhelmed me with their affection everywhere I go. It gives me great joy to witness a lot of people’s fear for me and my safety more than I would care to consider.
> What is your opinion of the Syrian Opposition’s Political bodies and blocs at home and abroad?
– In my opinion, the answer to such a question has always been very simple. After all the regime’s crimes, everyone who proposes or works to overthrow the regime without any narrow personal or partisan agenda, is with the revolution, whether that is at home or abroad. On the other hand, whoever is pursuing seizing power for him or his party is unwelcome (at least for me), and excuse me for not giving any names. As for whoever is against overthrowing the regime, they have chosen to be classified with the regime.
The Regime’s Partners abroad
> What is your opinion of the International Community’s stance towards the Syrian Revolution?
– It’s outrageous and calls for disgrace. Never have the Syrians anticipated in the beginning of their uprising that the International community would deal with our blood with such shameful morality. In this instance, I am, of course, not referring to the governments of Russia, China and Iran. These governments are partners of the regime in its crimes and they lack any morals in the first place.
> You have been seen by the world, and by Syrians in particular, wandering with the Observers in the ruined neighborhoods of Homs. How is your relationship with the Observers nowadays, and what is your view of their mission?
– I have been in contact with the Observers since the first moment of their arrival at the city of Homs, and continued with them explaining the crimes that have befallen the city till the end. Unfortunately, I could only perceive repeated promises. However, I still hope they would show their real stance when forwarding the facts and incidents (as they have witnessed) in their reports which they submit to the United Nations.
> Do you believe that the victory of the Syrian Revolution is imminent?
– Certainly, with the help and will of God, and the persistence and perseverance of the rebels, this regime has no hope of retaining power over Syrians thereafter. Presently, all what we hope for is that the cost of the regime’s demise would not bear heavily on Syrian people, who have already paid in blood for their freedom.
> When you think or dream of tomorrow’s Syria, after the regime. How do you perceive it?
– My perception is no different than what all Syrians are envisioning and talking about. It will be a free, democratic, and developed country; one that enjoys independence, and intellectual, political, economic, and military wealth.
> What do you dream of after overthrow of the regime?
– I have no personal dream outside the Syrian dream of setting free from the grasps of this tyrannical regime, and all my efforts today and after victory will be guided towards the best benefit of the Syrian people. I am after all, a citizen who must stay in service of his people and country. However, I would subsequently return to as an officer in the army of Independent Syria, where I would serve with honor and dedication, at the rank I am going to have without any personal ambitions outside the scope of my competence in my duties. Of course, I wish, indeed I affirm that the Syrian Army after victory will be an army that works only to protect the country and its people without any political aspirations for its individuals.
> Nowadays, it has been a year since you joined the uprising. What would you like to add today?
– I only convey my thanks and sincere gratitude to everyone laboring to defend righteousness and eradicate injustice for the Syrians in my country and the world.