Last Updated: Thu May 31, 2012 10:14 am (KSA) 07:14 am (GMT)

Syrian consul general in California resigns in protest of Houla massacre

According to the Syrian American Council, Syria’s Consul General Hazem Chehabi is the “first official to defect from President Bashar al-Assad regime.” (Photo courtesy of University of California Irvine Foundation)
According to the Syrian American Council, Syria’s Consul General Hazem Chehabi is the “first official to defect from President Bashar al-Assad regime.” (Photo courtesy of University of California Irvine Foundation)

Syria’s Consul General in California, Hazem Chehabi, resigned from his post in protest of last weekend’s massacre in al-Houla that left at least 100 people dead, a U.S. radio station reported him as saying on Wednesday.

“You get to a point where your silence or your inaction becomes ethically and morally unacceptable,” Chehabi told National Public Radio (NPR) in an interview.

“Although I think I may have been there a while ago, the recent barbaric massacre that took place in the town of Houla, for me it was a tipping point and was a point beyond which one could not justify remaining silent and/or remaining in a position that may be perceived, correctly or incorrectly, as having ties to the Syrian government.”

Chehabi ─ who told NPR that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “responsible for the actions of his own government” ─ is chairman of the University of California at Irvine board of trustees and has been the subject of student protests calling for his removal.

“Either you’re committing those atrocities, and therefore you’re guilty, or you’re not preventing them from happening, and the buck has to stop somewhere. And to me the buck stops all the way at the top.”

In related news, the U.S. and several governments worldwide have expeled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated protest against what had happened in the central town of Houla near Homs. On Wednesday, Turkey and Japan joined the list of countries to expel the Syrian envoys.

Chehabi, however, is a U.S. citizen and as honorary counsel is not subject to Washington’s expulsion order, a spokesman for the Syrian American Council (SAC) told The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

“We welcome Chehabi’s resignation and urge him to use his ties with Syrian officials to convince them to defect from the Assad regime in order to help speed its fall and save lives,” Amar Kahf, council activist, told the newspaper.

SAC also wrote on its official website that Chehabi is the “first official to defect from Assad regime.”

Charles Ries, director of Rand Corp.'s Center for Middle East Public Policy, told The Los Angeles Times that “diplomatic expulsions could force Syrian officials, military officers and foreign envoys to reconsider their relationship with the Assad regime and set off embarrassing defections that the Syrian president has so far been spared.”

As violence continues against civilians in Syria, Russia and China on Wednesday signaled their opposition to any military intervention in the crisis-torn country.

Russia said that the U.N. Security Council should not consider new measures to resolve the crisis in Syria at this point and signaled it would block any effort to authorize military intervention as China reiterated its opposition to either military intervention or regime change in Syria.

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