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Tue Mar 1, 2016, 04:56 AM


Syrian astronaut (8 days on Mir space station) is now a refugee

From astronaut to refugee: how the Syrian spaceman fell to Earth
In 1987, Muhammed Faris became a national hero after going into space with the Soviets. Now living in exile in Turkey, he has a new mission – fighting for his fellow refugees

The Neil Armstrong of the Arab world has an office in a ramshackle building in Istanbul’s Fatih or “Little Syria”. Muhammed Faris is a refugee, just like the people milling outside, facing up to the hardest challenge in his life; one that has already seen the roles of fighter pilot, spaceman, military advisor to the Assad regime; protester, rebel and defector.

In Syria, Faris is a national hero, with a school, airport and roads named after him. Medals on the wall of his office honour his achievements as an astronaut (or, strictly speaking, a cosmonaut). Here, hundreds of miles from his birthplace, Aleppo, he campaigns for democratic change in Syria, “through words, not weapons”.

In 1985, he was one of four young Syrian men vying to join the Interkosmos training programme, for allies of the Soviet Union, at Star City just outside Moscow. There had been one Arab in space before, Sultan Bin Salman Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, but never a professional Arab spaceman. Despite the thawing of the cold war, US relations with Iran and its ally Syria were deteriorating. Syrian ties to the Soviet Union were strong: Russia supported Bashar’s father, Hafez Assad, in his rise to power in a coup in 1970. In return, the Soviets were allowed to open a naval base in Tartus, which remains in Russian hands today.

When the violence began, Faris watched as his former students were “brainwashed” into attacking their own people. “They were told if they did not attack they would be killed by the rebels.” Today, some of Faris’s best former students are military leaders, controlling airports and crucial government sites but most have left. “It is mainly just the Alawites who have stayed by Assad’s side,” Faris says.

Soon after, Faris began planning his escape. “Four times, we were ready but I could see it wasn’t going to work. We considered many routes.” With three children and a wife to think about, he left nothing to chance. Eventually, they packed what they could in a car without arousing suspicion and drove over the Turkish border in August 2012. He became, and remains, the highest-ranking defector from the Assad regime.

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Reply Syrian astronaut (8 days on Mir space station) is now a refugee (Original post)
Liberal_in_LA Mar 2016 OP
jakeXT Mar 2016 #1

Response to Liberal_in_LA (Original post)

Tue Mar 1, 2016, 05:10 AM

1. Ah yes democracy, a problem for the CIA even back in 1949

March 1949 Syrian coup d'état


The coup was carried out with the discreet backing of the United States government and especially the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), possibly assisted by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), although al-Za'im himself is not known to have been a member. According to Joseph Massad, a professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, the coup was sponsored by the CIA,[3] a conclusion in agreement with other historians such as Prof. Douglas Little, and declassified records.[4] The coup is also described by author Irene Gendzier, who states that "CIA agents Miles Copeland and Stephen Meade . . . were directly involved in the coup."[5]

An overarching US policy objective in Syria at the time was allowing the construction of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, which the democratically elected government of Syria had blocked. The "Tapline" project was immediately ratified following the coup.[4]


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