Defection in the Dark by the Prime Minister Jolts Syrians
he defection of Syria’s prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, began like so many others: with coded conversations and furtive planning. He began discussing the idea of fleeing, an aide said, as soon as President Bashar al-Assad strong-armed him into taking the job in June. In recent days, he worked to get his extended family out. Then, early Monday, the prime minister slipped out of Damascus under cover of darkness with his wife and four children, scrambling through the desert as a fugitive.
At sunrise, he crossed into Ramtha, Jordan, shocking the Syrian government — which immediately claimed he had been fired — and spurring jubilation within a weary opposition.
“This is a proof that the political basis of the regime is collapsing,” said Samir Nachar, a leader of the Syrian National Council, the main exile opposition group. “This is the momentum we needed to tell the political and military elite that it is time for them to jump off the sinking ship.”
Mr. Hijab’s journey began when he climbed into a simple car with a driver who did not know his identity, according to an account provided by a Free Syrian Army commander, an activist at the Syria-Jordan border, and Mr. Hijab’s spokesman. He traveled down roads lined with rebel lookouts until he reached a contested stretch of border. Finally, he made his dramatic departure from Syria.