August 6th, 2012
07:39 PM ET

Syria's first astronaut joins the rebels

By Jamie Crawford

A "symbolic" pioneer in Syria's scientific advancements can now be added to the list of departures and defections from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in recent days.

Mohammad Ahmad Faris, Syria's first man in space, crossed into Turkey this past weekend after meeting with commanders of the rebel Free Syrian Army in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

"I am ready to provide assistance to the Free Syrian Army," Anadolu quoted Faris as telling commanders of the umbrella group of rebel fighters. "We are with you all the way."

Faris's defection comes as the Syrian prime minister, Riyad Hijab fled, reportedly for Qatar; and Col. Yarab al-Shara, a senior Syrian intelligence officer, defected to Jordan.

The defections "indicate that the regime is crumbling and losing its grip on power as more and more senior military and civilian officials abandon the Assad regime," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters Monday. "We encourage others to join them in rejecting the horrific actions of the Assad regime and helping to chart a new path for Syria, one that is peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just."

More: What do the defections tell us?

Faris, who was still an active member of the Syrian air force, was part of a three-man crew of a 1987 Soviet space mission, and was Syria's first man in space, Anadolu reported.

"Symbolically, he apparently was an important member of Syrian civil society," a senior U.S. official said. "In terms of being obviously somebody of some prominence, obviously the Syrians were proud of him as someone who had gone into space."

Faris's apparent defection is "very symbolic," Aram Nerguizian with the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNN. For Nerguizian, the symbolism is what is significant. Faris's ability to change the equation in the battles currently taking place in Syria is "marginal at best," he said.

More: Is Syria diplomacy dead?

More: Obama OK'd secret aid to rebels

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Filed under: Assad • Free Syrian Army • Syria
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Zaynab

    People are killed, infrastructures are destroyed, whole cities vanished..then what? When this will end?
    I'm Iraqi and I deeply feel the misery of those Syrian families suffering in the no where.

    September 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  2. GhostCoyote

    Give the man an old F4 or whatever Turkey has laying around and couple of sidewinders and watch the Syrian choppers start falling to the earth like autumn leaves. That would have a greater impact (strategically as well as psychologically) than him simply being a cosmonaut

    August 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  3. Bill

    Many more defections need to come and eventually abandon the Assad regime. Assad will be eventually slain and the rebels will win as in Libya. But what does that mean for the neighboring countries. What does it mean for democracy. Instead those countries will be in open civil war with Terrorist Groups killing even more people.Threats to adjoining neighboring countries will be threatened even more with refuges and terrorists crossing their borders and threatening their national security. The bible as well as many profits like Nostradameaus predicted all this would start out of Persia and it did going back to 1989 when Iraq attacked Kawait (Iraq and Iran are what was once called Persia). The ware would last 2-3 decades and as we know many have predicted the end of the world in December of 2012. Time will tell, but the middle east is falling apart by the minute.

    August 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  4. Barry G.

    Assad,

    We will see you soon at your trial at the Hague.

    August 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • William F. Phuckley

      Before or after Dubya and Cheney?

      August 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  5. Larry

    These people in the middle east don't want democracy. They wouldn't know what to do with it if it fell on them. They seem to like being told what to do. They will just swap one dictatorship for another.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • William F. Phuckley

      While "we" didn't prop up Assad and his daddy, there are plenty of other pr!cks, past and present, who owe their despotic reigns to the US.

      August 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  6. Smacky Smooth

    The end will be when the wife and kids are shipped out of the country with oodles of money stashed away.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
  7. joe

    The day will come when the US is nostalgic for the all the petty tin horn dictators who held the lids on their turbulent populations around the middle east and across north africa. They were obnoxious but predictable and represented stability. We knew how to deal with them. We aren't going to like what comes next after their fall. It isn't going to be democracy and freedom as we know it.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
  8. hrpufnstuf

    A Syrian astronaut? Ahahahaha!

    Who knew? But seriously, every defector they get is another nail in the coffin of that fool that thinks he's in charge. But I predict that he won't ever let go, and he will eventually get the same treatment as Sadaam.Insane.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply
  9. johnquepublique

    Syria has astronauts??? Who knew!?!?!?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • Big Al

      To those clowns who wrote "Syrian astronaut? Who knew?" Well, apparantly, not we ignorant Americans. See, if it didn't happen in America or if it didn't happen to Americans, then apparantly it did not happen. Btw, one can also wonder, seeing as he flew with the Soviets, if he would be better labelled a cosmonaut. (For the dumb Americans who do not know what that is, please google. Hint: Cosmonaut is not the Russian word for astronaut.)

      August 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
      • Chris

        Ummm an Astronaut and a Cosmonaut are the same thing unless your know something the dictionary does not.

        August 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. peter murdock

    Everyone here who is against the Syrian uprising and thinks CIA is behind this and that are mostly Russian people. The only two nations that will seriously suffer from Syria bcoming a democratic nation is Russia & Iran. Both Russia & Iran their days are numbered as countries such as Syria, Libya, Algeria, etc are on their path to freedom. For Russia this simply means no more a Navy base in Syria and so far Russia has lost all of his clients who used to purchase Russian Junk weapons. The only two or maybe three countries who are forced to buy Russian weapons are Iran, China and India (maybe stopped ever since they have access to American goods!).
    So people please do not listen to all these anti Syrian movements most are from Russian people who pretend to be American or Syrian..if you read carefully you can see how fake they sound. Also, about 50,000+ Russians technicians and consultants live in Syria or are married to Syrians, mostly women...and they enjoy more freedom and make more money then regular Syrians as this is part of Syrian government deal with Russia to have consultants work and help 'em there in return for Russian protection.
    Thanks!

    Pete

    August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
  11. Admiral Ackbar

    It's a trap!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
    • T in L.A.

      Now THAT'S funny!!

      August 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  12. Jase

    He's a cosmonaut, not an astronaut.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
  13. Say it louder

    I think someone is giving these people a little too much crediit

    August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
  14. ALL uh

    Who's next? A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker?

    August 7, 2012 at 8:21 am | Reply
    • doubledees

      LOL!!

      August 7, 2012 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • John M.

      Assad the Butcher is next

      August 7, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply
    • bccream

      CNN will count almost anyone like milkman, shoemaker, electrician, plumber and so on to keep up their propaganda up. It would be nice if the media stops taking sides and just present the facts.

      August 7, 2012 at 11:39 am | Reply
  15. Dick Coleman

    Astronaut may be a stretch. I suspect he drew the short straw.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
    • Buck

      It's not a stretch. He was an astronaut to the Russian Mir Space Station.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
  16. Kurt Prochnow

    This is a proxy war, not an organic uprising. A sham. The amount of propaganda and fools paying lip service to the terrorists is beyond disgusting and nothing short of ridiculous.. If the terrorists win, give it 20 years and we'll simply be fighting them like we fought the Taliban who were also helped by the CIA.

    August 7, 2012 at 3:15 am | Reply
    • John M.

      what is disgusting is you, to support a mass murdering dictator slaughtering thousands of his own people b/c Assad is only thinking of himself, Assad will get hanged, bullet to the head like Gadhafi, and will rot in prison for crimes against humanity

      August 7, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
      • ted williams

        prison first I hope

        August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  17. Max in OC, CA

    Hmmm–I have to ask about all these "in the know" posters. Do you think you can speak intelligently about the Syrian issue because you got your info from the media, or because you have actually been there?? Until you've been there to see first hand the true circs, quit trying to come off like you know what's up!!! I appreciate peoples funny remarks and basic statements–but those who think they are smart sound a lot dumber than they think. Down with Assad and up with the FSA!! Peace be with you.

    August 7, 2012 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • BillD

      hmmm I have to wonder about posters who comment about other posters not knowing what's going on in Syria. Where do you get your knowledge from? Are you in Syria? I didn't think so.....

      August 7, 2012 at 8:13 am | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Even being in Syria isn’t going to give you an accurate picture of what is going on. Everyday police interview witnesses to the same event… and every story they get is different. Stop buying into your own BS.

      August 7, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  18. Jeff

    Assad was history when he failed to head the masses wanting reform. He lost right there and then. How stupid can these dictators be especially after seeing numerous colleagues falling before? Assad missed the bus that could have kept him in power when he refused to implement reforms a year ago.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Reply
    • vozdejustica1

      He is stupid as an ASSad

      August 7, 2012 at 12:23 am | Reply
      • Kurt Prochnow

        Media exists as a propaganda tool, right now it's being used to manipulate the sheeple such as this piece of work into supporting an invasion of Syria.

        August 7, 2012 at 3:18 am |
      • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

        @Kurt
        Then tell us what is REALLY going on!? I’m waiting…. tinfoil hat and all.

        August 7, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Craig

      Like the old song...the times, they are a changin.' The problem is two-fold. First, how does Assad detect that this is something special or just the garden variety little problem. Obviously it's much more than that now, but how do you tell in the beginning. Second, he learned his methodology from his father. If it doesn't work, apply industrial-strength deterrent. In the old days that worked, but times have changed, and people like Assad are slow to understand the dynamics of that change. Given the "Arab Spring" we'd think he'd understand, but he lives in a different world, surrounded by people who tell him what he wants to hear and what he wants to believe. It really is that simple.

      August 7, 2012 at 2:15 am | Reply
    • Marie Alwakkaf

      Thats because they all think they are the exception to the rule, they hold themselves so high up on pedistals,,, he will fall like all those before him, Assad is a coward like all those dictators before him, the young Syrian females who are willing to fight have more courage than that coward does.........

      August 7, 2012 at 8:12 am | Reply
  19. jqent

    "... helping to chart a new path for Syria, one that is peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just."
    About the best we dare hope for is one out of four. Assad is a yellow dog, but his possible successors may be worse.

    August 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  20. Joe Buckingham

    Funny, these dictators come to believe in their own immortality. Don't they know their job is more temporary than the job of a construction crew digging a ditch? Bashar would be smart if he just fled and went to join his money in Switzerland.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  21. Stan

    "Rebels" were offered peace, they refused and continued killing innocent civilians...

    Understandably so – all that mercs now how to do is kill.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Reply
    • LT Fang

      al-Assad's offer of peace, "I kill you all, then there will be peace? Okay?"

      August 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Reply
      • Pete

        Brilliant, saved me the trouble of writing it myself !!!

        August 7, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Marie Alwakkaf

      What is it that you do not understand Stan, the "Rebels" is a label given to the civilians and the innocent citizens who are fighting for the right to live. My family, brothers, neices who have been raped, family who as been robbed, inprisoned, beat and killed are the "rebels"... understand the term..... freedom does not come free... so brave are those who are willing to stand and fight for the good... may they defeat the evil

      August 7, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
  22. airhead

    Assad has been hiding out on a kubbitz.

    August 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Reply
  23. Jaimie

    Bashar al- Assad ordered his military to kill peaceful innocent syrians while they had peaceful demonstrations. Assad felt threatened by these demostrations. His murdering of thousands of innocent children, women, men, and the elders because of peaceful demonstrations is a horrific action only taken by a mad man. He needs to be replaced by someone who loves Syria and its people. The FSA need all the help it can get.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
    • Stan

      No such thing took place.

      Protesters lost the election and being radical Muslims decided to overthrow the government. Nobody touched them until they began killing innocent women and children.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
      • Joseph

        Oh yes it did. The videos are coming out now and the early defectors videos are also coming out. I know you wont believe the obvious so GFYS lol.

        August 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
      • Pepinium

        Elections Stan? Really? For a dictatorship that has lasted more than 40 years? What does it take to make people like you understand a government like Assad's has absolutely no legitimacy, no matter how long they have been around? People subjugated for that long have every right to take any action necessary to regain their right to self determination. End of story.

        August 6, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
      • BillD

        Assad's troops fired on peaceful demonstrators to quell them. What he actually ended up doing was he poured a ton of gas on a small fire. Now the fire is coming at him.

        August 7, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • RedWhite& Blue

      You are absolutely right. Bashar ranks right up there with Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. He needs to be judged and punished for warcrimes.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
      • beware

        What about Ben gurion???

        August 6, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Marie Alwakkaf

      you are so right !! he is fighting only to protect his finanacial hold and for the benefit of his family and thier future financial gain. He cares nothing about Syria or its people. He is the devils son, not a Syrian.......... God will bring him to his knees like those before him.

      August 7, 2012 at 8:46 am | Reply
  24. jimzcarz

    I'm sorry But A Syrian Astronaut?...Kinda like the Jamaican Bobsled team

    August 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Reply
    • John

      Kind of like a redneck racist who knows how to spell and post comments online.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Reply
      • Pete

        Not quite, the syrians did not build the spaceship he went up on, he hitched a ride on a Russian one. Don't get me wrong, it was a great achievement but the reference to the Jamaican bobsled team does not warrant an accustaion of racism, it was a valid point.

        August 7, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • OJ

      This is the problem with everyone allowed to have kids. You get a guy making a stupid comment like this, and yet somehow he counts as one of us, humans.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • just plain common sense

      Guys,, Jim is trying to be funny... I liked his observation...

      August 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Reply
      • Fritz

        I thought it was funny too. I'm sure the Russian crew told the Syrian NOT to touch any buttons or levers after launch.

        August 7, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • jackola

      Great analogy!

      August 7, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
  25. Stan

    Black-water trained mercs ain't gonna win this one.

    Syrian army is fighting for their freedom and their motherland – truth will prevail!

    August 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  26. Baa Weet

    the rats are bailing out of the sinking ship.I bet it would be a different story if the FSA was getting owned.When Bashar is dangling at the end of a rope,and Syria has it so called freedom,I still won't care.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Reply
    • RedWhite& Blue

      I applaud this astronaut for his courage. Now he can do his best to help the people of Syria obtain their freedom.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Reply
      • jackola

        "Take a flying leap" says Assad.

        August 7, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  27. Ryan

    CIA – u gonna run run out of mercs willing to die for your money before you can take Syria.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Reply
    • airhead

      dont believe the cia hasnt been on the ground for a long time yet. cowards like you always can critize from behind a keyboard

      August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Reply
    • RedWhite& Blue

      It is not the CIA fighting Bashar and his gangs of murderers. It is regular Syrians.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  28. John

    They have an astronaut? Who woulda guessed

    August 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • airhead

      He got there by flying carpet.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Reply
      • OJ

        Or they use their Algebra they invinted for the rest of the world to use, http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_invented_algebra. The world Algorithm is derived from the muslim scientst who invented it.

        August 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • STSEndeavour

      Technically – since he went up with a Soviet crew – wouldn't he be a cosmonaut?

      August 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply
      • Fritz

        good point.

        August 7, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  29. Ryan

    That's alright. Aleppo's terrorists gonna be wiped out soon.

    August 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Reply
    • RedWhite& Blue

      By Aleppo terrorists, you mean the Syrian Military. They are the ones in military uniform terrorizing civilians.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  30. OffTheWorldPolitics

    Assad is living in fantasy land. The more bodies he leaves the more people who will be looking for him later on....

    August 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Reply
    • Ryan

      IMHO. the less of these emrcs are alive – the better off humanity is going to be.

      August 6, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Reply
      • OffTheWorldPolitics

        IMHO mercs are reluctant to go up against a regime with chemical weapons. They just want their money. A lot of these people are what we refer to here in the U.S. as sick and tired. They want democracy because they are sick and tired of not having any control over their own lives. Who can blame them? Who wants to live under the dictates of a tyrant their entire lives??

        August 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  31. Thinker

    Assad, time and history are on our side. Who will give you asylum now? Quick get your "Ass"ad into beautiful Russia or China while you can save your neck. Gee, I guess this is one more Middle Eastern Country which will have an axe to grind with Russia and China.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  32. crazy world

    nope assad give the rebels chaos and if you do go out go out in a BANG!!!!!

    August 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
    • RedWhite& Blue

      Assad whatever you do, you won't be able to stomp out the Syrian people's desire for freedom.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  33. cyg

    I suppose he's Al Qaeda too? (not) Time to dangle, Assad...(look up Mussolini)

    August 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  34. ready

    Symbols of this countries patriotism are now against the leadership. Time to go away Assad

    August 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  35. Sic Semper Tyrannis

    All tyrants fall, and so shall Assad. Bet on it.

    August 6, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply

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