Syrian general who committed war crimes forced to retire by regime

Syrian general who committed war crimes forced to retire by regime
Analysts theorised that the Brigadier General, Wafiq Nasser, was forced to retire due to his rising popularity.
3 min read
05 January, 2023
Activists in Suweida province decried the lack of justice for Nasser's alleged brutality. [Getty]

The Syrian regime forced Brigadier General Wafiq Nasser into retirement this week, an official notorious for committing war crimes while putting down protests in the south of the country.

Local media outlet Suwayda 24 reported on Wednesday that the General had been asked to retire, instead of being promoted.

The regime usually issues military promotions twice a year, in January and in June.

Nasser was the head of military intelligence for southern Syria from 2011 to 2018. He was infamous for his brutal tactics, which were designed to sow division among Syrian rebels.

He was named by a military defector as being responsible for arrest and torture and is sanctioned by both the EU and the US.

"Nasser was very important to the regime, especially in dividing the Suwayda/Druze society, which seemed impossible given how the sect and society are closely linked," Suhail al-Ghazi, an Italy-based researcher focusing on Syria, told The New Arab.

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Suweida, a majority Druze province in southern Syria, is notable for staying neutral from the rest of Syria's opposition during its revolution.

In recent years, however, the province has been plagued by armed gangs participating in kidnappings, murder and drug trafficking. Locals accuse the gangs of being linked to the regime and acting with its blessing.

“He worked to form armed groups and militias and provided them with weapons. Later these groups turned to criminal activities,” Rayan Maarouf, an activist and editor of Suwayda 24, told The New Arab.

The tactic of empowering local armed gangs in Suweida was allegedly created and led by Nasser and helped stifle dissent in the province.

"It scared the society from participating in further opposition to the regime and pressured the religious leaders to work with the regime rather than becoming more independent," al-Ghazi explained.

Military intelligence also worked to drive a wedge between Suweida and the neighbouring Daraa province. The two had seen a series of tribal disputes since 2011, with kidnappings and retaliatory acts of violence happening sporadically.

In 2015, Walid al-Balous, Druze religious leader and founder of a local militia called "Men of Dignity," was assassinated in a bombing which also struck a local hospital, killing dozens of civilians.

The regime, under Nasser's leadership, is largely suspected of being behind the bombing, though no party ever claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Nasser was transferred from southern Syria to Hama and then Aleppo, where he headed the respective military intelligence branches until his retirement now.

The regime did not give a reason for Nasser's retirement, though pro-regime social media pages applauded him for his service.

“It’s difficult to [know] especially since Wafiq Nasser played a prominent role in implementing the regime’s security policies. A decision of this kind is mostly linked to the head of power in Syria,” Maarouf said.

Opposition figures condemned the lack of justice for Nasser's alleged crimes and brutality against protesters.

“We must work on having his name brought up in international courts, because we are tired of the media discussing him without any real accountability happening,” Suhaib al-Jabal, a resident of Suwayda, told The New Arab.

In contrast to Nasser's forced retirement, Suhail al-Hassan, the head of the elite Tiger Forces, was promoted this week.

Al-Hassan is alleged to be close to Russian military leadership and is a popular figure within the regime forces.