|Birth name||Manaf Mustafa Tlass|
|Born||1964 (age 51–52)
|Service/branch||Syrian Arab Army|
|Years of service||until 3 July 2012|
|Commands held||104th brigade|
|Battles/wars||Syrian Civil War
Rif Dimashq clashes (November 2011–March 2012)
|Relations||Mustafa Tlass (father)
Firas Tlass (brother)
Abdul Razzaq Tlass (cousin)
Early life and education
Tlass was born in Rastan in 1964. He is the son of the former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and Lamia Al Jabiri, a member of an aristocratic Aleppo family. Businessman Firas Tlass is his elder brother. The Tlass family was the most famous Sunni family in Syria, known for supporting the government. On the other hand, the members of his family worked for the Ottoman suzerains as well as French occupiers after the First World War.
Tlass was a close friend of Basil Assad, Hafez Assad's eldest son and heir apparent until his death in a 1994 car accident. He later became close to Bashar Assad, having attended military college with Assad, Bashar Assad regarded the Tlass brothers as peers and friends.
After Hafez Assad's death in 2000, Tlass became Bashar Assad's right-hand-man. He also became a member of the central committee of the Baath Party in 2000. He was also regarded as a potential candidate for leadership in future years. In June 2005, Tlass was reelected to the central committee of the Baath Party.
Tlass tried to help Bashar Assad increase his base of support by introducing him to members of the Sunni merchant class. Tlass also advocated reform as early as 2005, but he stressed that Assad was the best hope for reform. Tlass had also reportedly held unsuccessful talks with the Syrian opposition during the 2011 Syrian uprising.
Tlass was promoted to the rank of one-star general in the Republican Guards, which is one of the core military units used to crush the uprising that began in 2011. He commanded the 104th brigade that is located in Douma and Harasta in the Republican Guard together with Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine. This brigade was led by Bashar Assad before he became President, and by Basil Assad until his death in 1994.
Tlass is reported to have become increasingly frustrated in recent months over the violent crackdown by the security forces on protesters. He was the first government official meeting with the opposition in March 2011 and trying to open a dialogue and find a political solution. He was also involved in reconciliation efforts in rural Damascus, including Douma, Daraa, al-Tall, Homs and his home town Rastan. His reconciliation efforts are said to have led to house arrest from May 2011 to his defection in July 2012.
There are several accounts from activists of Tlass's role in the uprising. Some argued that he was under house arrest, and exempted from army duty since 2011. The hometown of the Tlass family, Rastan, became an early base for army defectors at the same period. Some activists also stated that the family was under strict supervision for a while due to their suspected sympathy with the uprising.
Tlass tried to meet with Bashar Assad via a leading political figure who is not Syrian but is close to Assad a few days before leaving Syria. However, the meeting did not take place.
It has been reported that he defected to Turkey in early July 2012 along with 23 other officers after the Syrian intelligence services discovered he was a member of the opposition. Bashar al Heraki, a member of the Syrian National Council states that Manaf Tlass was one of the government’s main figures and that his defection is a sign of Bashar al Assad's losing power. The case is reported to be as the first such case involving a high-ranking military commander. On 6 July 2012, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that Manaf Tlass is on his way to Paris to join his family there.
Fabius stated on 12 July 2012 that Manaf Tlass and the members of the Syrian opposition formed contacts. French President Francois Hollande confirmed on 17 July 2012 that Manaf Tlass was in Paris. On the same day, Manaf Tlass published a statement in the French Press Agency. He called for "a constructive transition" in Syria and said the Syrian army had fought against the Syrian people.
Tlass called on Syrians to unite and look towards a post-revolutionary Syria, in video address broadcast from Saudi Arabia on 24 July 2012. It was his first public appearance since he defected in early July 2012.
- “I speak to you as a defected member of the Syrian army, who refuses criminal violence … I speak to you as one of the sons of Syria."
- “Honorable Syrian army officers do not accept the criminal acts in Syria … Allow me to serve Syria after [President Bashar] al-Assad’s era. We must all unite to serve Syria and promote stability in the country, rebuilding a free and democratic Syria.”
- “Allow me to call on a united Syria, the new Syria ... should not be built on revenge, exclusion or monopoly.”
He said he did not blame those troops who have not defected, adding that “whatever mistakes made by some members of the Syrian Arab Army ... those honorable troops who have not partaken in the killing ... are the extension of the Free Syrian Army.”
His cousin, Abdul Razzak Tlass, had announced that his cousin Manaf provided him and several units of the Free Syrian Army with arms in order to counter the military campaign on Rastan. Also, Manaf’s older brother, Firas Tlas, declared his support for the opposition. Firas Tlass also admitted to offering humanitarian and relief aid to the Farouq Brigades in the Free Syrian Army which is commanded by his cousin Abdul Razzak Tlas.
Tlass visited Saudi Arabia in the last week of July 2012. His visit was organized by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, newly appointed head of Saudi Intelligence. During the visit, Tlass did the rituals of the Umrah in Mecca. He confirmed his defection in an exclusive video for Saudi-based TV channel Al Arabiya and gave his first interview to the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
Tlass is a Sunni Muslim. He is married to Tala Kheir Tlass. His wife is from the Damascus upper middle class, the daughter of a Damascus intellectual and granddaughter of the nationalist merchant, Adib Kheir. They have a son, Ahmed Tlass.
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