No one quite knows how Syrian dissident Hussein Harmoush went from the safety of a Turkish refugee camp into the clutches of the regime he thought he had escaped. But his case has his fellow political exiles nervous.
The military defector’s plight has highlighted the vulnerability of foreign political dissidents in Turkey. Some analysts are questioning Ankara’s ability or willingness to protect those seeking refuge.
Lt. Col. Harmoush, the highest-ranking soldier yet to abandon the Syrian regime, was paraded on Syrian state television on September 15, when he “confessed” to his role in the six-month-old resistance to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Some Syrian opposition figures accuse Ankara of arresting Harmoush and returning him to the Assad government, while others fear that their own country’s intelligence agents abducted him.
In another illustration of the dangers facing exiles in Turkey, three Chechen rebels were gunned down in broad daylight in Istanbul the day after Harmoush’s television appearance. The prime suspect was the Russian secret service.
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where he writes for The Times.