Skip to main content

Syrian defector says government has lost control of 'human monsters'

From Arwa Damon, CNN
January 11, 2012 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A former defense official says government agents shot protesters from ambulances
  • "We have reached a phase of genocide," Mahmoud al-Haj Hamad says
  • Other ministries have seen budgets cut 30% to pay for the clampdown, he says
  • Al-Hamad defected to Egypt in December along with his family

Watch a half-hour documentary "Homs - City Under Siege" on CNN International's Connect The World on Wednesday at 2130 GMT/ 1630 ET/ 0530 HKT.

Cairo (CNN) -- Syria's embattled government has been holding jailed dissidents underground and paying pro-government gang members $100 a day to crack down on protesters as it tries to quell months of demonstrations against it, a former defense official said.

Mahmoud al-Haj Hamad was a financial inspector in the Ministry of Defense in Damascus until his recent defection to Egypt. In an interview with CNN this week, he provided a firsthand account of the wheels of repression at work, as seen from his former 12th-floor office.

"I used to see them bringing in blindfolded and handcuffed detainees on buses who are kept in underground prisons, even some built under the streets," he said. During protests in the streets of Damascus, city buses filled with armed gangs left the ministry, flanked by four-wheel-drive vehicles "filled with weapons," Hamad said.

"What is more horrific is the intelligence vans marked with the Syrian Red Crescent insignia that would drive through the protests as ambulances and start firing at protesters," he added.

Arab League accused of failing Syrians
Critics question monitors' Syria mission
Syrian gas pipeline attacked

He blames much of the carnage not Syrian regular troops but on President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence service and the armed gangs he says were recruited to battle protesters.

"Bashar al-Assad is no longer able to control these human monsters," Hamad said. "We have reached a phase of genocide, and this can't be tolerated under any circumstances."

He said the gunmen were provided with accommodations "and high salaries of about $100 a day." But the nearly 10-month-old crackdown in Syria has cost the government so much that it has had to cut funding for other government ministries by 30%, Hamad said.

Hamad said he supported the revolution from the start, as did many of his colleagues. He said he would even disguise himself to join the demonstrators sometimes.

For a while, he said, "We were hoping the killing would stop and the regime would understand that the revolution will win, and maybe find a way to appease the people. But there was no hope."

As the opposition continued, the ministry began to put restrictions on its own staff, Hamad said. Vacations and travel had to be approved by the intelligence department. So he lied to get out in late December.

"I traveled to Egypt through the airport with the excuse of registering my son in college in Cairo," he said. "When the rest of my family followed me, I announced my defection in protest of what is happening in Syria."

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT