What Abdo Hussameddin has risked by standing up to Assad
Syrian minister quits to join the rebels, risking the 'liquidation' of his family by Assad's forces
SYRIA'S deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameddin, has become the highest ranking civilian to quit President Bashar al-Assad's regime since the Syrian pro-democracy uprising erupted a year ago.
On a day when 39 more people were killed by Assad's forces across the country and the UN's humanitarian chief expressed shock at the devastation wrought in the city of Homs, Hussameddin made his announcement in a video shot at a secret location and posted on YouTube.
"I, Abdo Hussameddin, deputy oil and mineral wealth minister in Syria, announce my defection from the regime, resignation from my position and withdrawal from the Baath Party.
"I am joining the revolution of the people who reject injustice and the brutal campaign of the regime, which is seeking to crush the people's demand for freedom and dignity."
Publicly, the government has turned a blind eye to Hussameddin's announcement. But the BBC's veteran correspondent Jim Muir made it clear this morning that Hussameddin has taken his life into his own hands.
It must be hoped that the departing minister had already made arrangements to remove his family from the country. If not, he risks them being "liquidated" by the regime, Muir told the Today programme.
Hussameddin himself is well aware of the risk he has taken. "I have joined the right path knowing that this regime will burn down my house, hunt down my family and fabricate lies," he said.
He said he had served in the Syrian government for 33 years and did not wish to end his life "serving a criminal regime". Perhaps looking ahead to the war crime trials that are likely to follow the final resolution of the Syrian uprising, he advised his colleagues to follow suit and abandon "this sinking ship".
His announcement came on a day when US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said he was examining the possibility of delivering "non-lethal aid" to Syria's rebels. This would represent the first direct American assistance.