Brigadier-General Manaf Tlas hails from a family with a long history in the Syrian military establishment starting from his father former Syrian Defense Minister Lieutenant General Mustafa Tlas to his cousins who defected from the Syrian regime.
Tlas’s defection dealt a severe blow to the Syrian regime not only because he is the son of a former defense minister, but also because of his own rank in the army.
Tlas comes from Rastan in the Homs governorate. Homs was, in fact, the main reason for the fallout between Manaf Tlas and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Tlas asked Assad to stop military operations in Homs, which at the time, had claimed the lives of hundreds of Syrians.
Manaf Tlas, commander of the Republican Guard’s 105th brigade, is the second son of Mustafa Tlas, who was minister of defense from 1972 during the reign of Hafez al-Assad, to 2004, four years after Bashar al-Assad inherited power following his father’s death.
Bashar al-Assad dismissed Mustafa Tlas, who he saw as a member of the “old guard,” one year before the assassination of his friend former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
Since protests erupted, Mustafa Tlas remained silent and traveled to Paris five months ago for his regular health check-up. His stance was seen by many who are close to him as contrary to the security policies of the regime.
Manaf’s older brother, Firas Tlas, declared his support for a resolution to the crisis that stipulates Assad’s resignation. He also admitted to offering humanitarian and relief aid to al-Farouk Brigade in the Free Syrian Army which is commanded by his cousin Abdul Razzak Tlas.
Abdul Razzak Tlas is a prominent revolutionary and one of the earliest defectors from the Syrian regime. He recently 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.
Manaf Tlas had another cousin, also named Manaf, who was killed by the Syrian army early this year and was buried in Damascus.
People close to Manaf Tlas say he had decided to leave Syria two months before he announced his defection. He, however, had to wait until he secured a safe exit for his family members and who, he feared, would be the target of the regime’s retaliation