Its almost 15 months since the news agencies surfaced the first such incident since the Syrian uprising on March 15, 2011, ''Syrian air force pilot flew into neighboring Jordan and defected with his Russian-made fighter jet.''
Zaman Alwasl was pleased to interview the plane's commander, Col. Hassan Merhi al-Hamadah, and to hear from him what's happened since his defection.
Col. Hamadah attempted to defect even before June 2012 but circumstances were not suitable, as this kind of operation is extremely sensitive and dangerous, he said.
“I first attempted to defect in the half term holiday on 17th January 2012, as I sent some staff with my two sons to Idlib, because it is close to Turkey and my home city. But surprisingly, the holiday was too short and the weather was too bad which made the defection difficult, so I delayed the operation, but did not cancel it” the colonel said.
He added that at the end of the academic year, in June 2012, he made up his mind and told his wife and eldest son only about the operation, and they acted normally, after receiving the salary they went to their village, and then he went to Turkey. He detailed that they agreed on a phrase “Abo Ayman’s house” as a code to let him know that they arrived to Turkey.
The pilot said that he used to have his special position and independency in his work and there was no hierarchy ruling his decision to make a flight. Therefore, his last flight was not that suspicious.
He denied rumours about orders to bomb Dara’a and instead he defected to Jordan.
“in regard to statements claimed to be mine, I confirm to you that I was completely away from any means of communications, either by phone or electronically, I had only contacted my family to assure them. I do not know anything about the facebook pages at the time” Colonel Hammadeh confirmed to Zaman Alwasl correspondent.. He denied coordination with Jordanian government or the Free Syrian Army “FSA” or any party of the opposition, as he was sure he was under close follow up.
In regard to the claims that British Embassy offered him political asylum, he said that he heard about that in news only and he did know anything about. Beside that he denied meeting with any of the opposition members, but he heard that some of them wanted to meet him, but the Jordanian government did not let them, and he did not have a chance to make sure about that news.
He told Zaman Alwasl correspondent that he used the “shock” method to defect to Jordan, as he made some usual training in his plane, therefore it would be seen as normal actions on the surveillance room, then he flew very low to around 50 meter height at a thousand kilometre speed, toward al-Mafraq airport, so his plane was not possible to get hit by land anti-flight missiles in Dara’a.
“Defection is one of the most difficult situation, and it is very brave decision, the moment I flew low and increased the speed, I expected to get hit by a defence missile either from Syrian or Jordanian side, getting through air forces defence methods of both countries, was extremely hard” he said proudly.
The pilot expressed his comfort toward the treatment he had the moment he arrived to Jordan, especially the King Abdullah the second, and the head of the national army and the air forces leader.
“When I arrived to al-Mafraq military airport, I switch the engine off, and get off the plane, and did the salutation. There was a fire engine and around 15 persons, they all welcome me as a guest, and asked me if I want to apply for asylum, and told them to do whatever they see suitable as long as the operation succeeded” the air forces colonel detailed.
'' I was asked about reasons for defection by the Jordanian authorities, what reasons was behind my defection,'' Hamadah replied that he defect for 4 reasons, The first and the most important was to confront the Syrian myth in regard the impossibility for the Syrian Military officiers to defect, the second aim was to annoy the regime, the other was to encourage officers and militaries to defect and the last was to improve the morals of rebels in fighting field.
The colonel considered hitting the Turkish airplane that regime did the very second day of his defection as an attempt to divert attentionaway from his operation as the regime became worried from other pilots defection. He added: “regime lied in regard to claims that Turkish airplane breached the Syrian territories, it happened before many times without any problem, even Syrian airplane breached Turkish territories many times without any problem, the only borders Syrian air plane cannot cross are the Israeli’s and Lebanese’s, as there is an implicit agreement between Hafiz al-Assad and Israel in regard to Lebanon, as land for Syria and sky for Israel.” He confirmed that around 55-60 Syrian pilots have defected and there are plans to form a Pilot gathering soon, under the control of Commander Salim Idris, who directed colonels to form the gathering.
The Syrian pilot confirmed that Syrian air forces has powerful and modern defence means, and that may be one of the reasons for NATO’s reluctance to interfere in Syria.
Read the original article; Translation by Yusra Ahmed