Assad’s sister defects amid ‘disputes’ between ruling Alawites: source


Bushra al-Assad, the sister of the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has fled Syria with her children, weeks after her husband and 'guaranteed' protector Assef Shawqat, who was the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian Armed Forces, was killed by the opposition forces in July 18, 2012, an informed source told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

Opposition website reported on Sunday that Bushra had left Syria to Dubai, where she enrolled her children at school. The website, which is owned by opposition figure Ayman Abdulnoor, reported that Bushra had previously lived in the UAE during a brief rift with her brother, Bashar.

Pro-Syrian Lebanese Arabic daily newspaper, Ad-Diyar, had also reported that Bushra, a pharmacist, was preparing to travel to Dubai; but didn’t clarify if that would be her final destination.

The Syrian source, who spoke to Al Arabiya English on condition of anonymity, said Bushra had escaped Syria amid reports of “rising disputes” within the Alawite sect, to which the president and the vast majority of his powerful military, intelligence, and government figures belong.

Following the death of her husband Shawqat, who was also the former head of the Syrian Military Intelligence, Bushra grew more worried about her and her children’s safety, the source said, adding that a “Quasi-Coup taking place” within the ranks of the Alawite leaderships has prompted Bushra to flee the country.

The source said “some Alawite leaders are worried that the whole sect would eventually be implicated by President Assad in crimes against civilians,” adding that this has made some of them turn against him and that a “front of Alawite officers” has been formed to liaise with the Free Syrian Army and help overthrow the regime.

The source said Bushra has fled the country fearing that she could be the target of other Alawite brethren, who were implicated by her husband in the killing of civilians.

The July 18 attack that killed her husband also killed two other members of the government’s six-member crisis council.

The president’s brother Maher al-Assad was reportedly wounded and lost a leg in the bombing. Subsequent reports suggested that he might have died in a Russian hospital. The Syrian information ministry denied the reports as “baseless and falls within the framework of desperate psychological warfare.”