(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Disassembling a burnt-out ceiling fan in his windowless Mafraq dorm room was not the role Lt. Col. Hani Abu Mohammad had envisioned when he ended 20 years of service in the Syrian air force and broke ranks with the Bashar Assad regime.
The aeronautical engineer, who claims to have intimate knowledge of Damascus' aerial artillery, said that instead of putting his unique experience at the disposal of rebel forces, he has spent the two months since his defection as a "revolutionary handyman".
"I risked everything to take back my country," the 42-year-old said as he stepped down from a cracked plastic chair positioned beneath the fan.
"So far, the only thing I have liberated is our satellite television access."
Abu Mohammad is one of hundreds of former Syrian regime officials finding themselves increasingly isolated in exile, pushed by their defection from the frontlines to the sidelines, forced to watch as others carry out the battle for the future of their homeland.
As the death toll of various battles across Syria has risen over the past few weeks, so too has the number of senior Syrian officials willing to break ranks with the Assad regime, with dozens of members of the security services and the military throwing their support behind the opposition.
As the conflict drags on, the leading destination for Damascus' deserters remains Jordan, which according to security sources has witnessed a "dramatic" increase in high-profile defections in recent weeks, pushing the total number of former officers in the country to over 1,000.
Yet many of those who risk their lives, families and livelihoods to make the several-day journey, find that life in exile is far less glamorous.
Due to political sensitivities and security concerns, Amman places former Syrian military officers in so-called holding sites, guarded housing complexes scattered across northern Jordan where they are prevented from political or military activity.
Rather than directing the "liberation" of Damascus or regrouping with opposition activists in Amman, former Baath Party and military officials find themselves pacing the courtyards, forced only to watch as the conflict unfolds on the pan-Arab Al Jazeera satellite channel.
"We thought we would be joining the ranks of the Free Syrian Army," said Abu Hammad, a 40-year-old lieutenant, as he paced the gated perimeters of an industrial complex-turned-holding site on the outskirts of Mafraq on Sunday.
"Instead we are living like prisoners."
As a daily ritual, the officers gather in the Mafraq camp's courtyard in the morning to await potential visitors, entire field squadrons and command centres basking in the Jordanian desert sun.
Having traded in their starched uniforms for slightly used ankle-length dishdashes, they crouch on dust-covered mattresses littering the compound's courtyard, swapping war stories and the latest rumours in Syria - albeit often a few days behind.
"Did you hear Sharaa defected?" said Lt. Col. Mohammad Daraawi, in reference to the Syrian vice president who ended weeks of speculation over his alleged defection on Sunday by meeting with an Iranian envoy.
The officers spend the next few hours passing around scraps of paper scrawled with the names of potential Jordanian sponsors, whose guarantee is required under interior ministry policies should they wish to request a 10-day monitored "leave" from the compound.
Employing their strategic prowess and outside contacts, the officers have developed a "network of guarantors", cycling through neighbours and extended families of former acquaintances in order to limit their time in the compound to as little as possible.
Unable to meet with Syrian rebels within Jordan, the officers opt instead to take shopping trips to west Amman malls, visit relatives and even relax at the shores of Aqaba and the Dead Sea.
"If we cannot join the fight, at least we can live a life in dignity," said Abu Ali, a former intelligence officer from Homs, as he scribbled down the name of another potential sponsor.
Although their movement is restricted, the defectors are not entirely cut off from the outside world. Jordanian authorities provide officers with Internet access, televisions and even allow the officers to use mobile phones within the holding centres.
As their defection has left them as "marked men", by the regime, the officers are unable to contact rebels on the ground, former comrades or even family members due to security risks, limiting their Internet use instead to "recreational" purposes.
Rather than devise a strategy to counter Damascus' increasing reliance on airpower against rebel forces, .Abu Mohammad has spent his month in exile sharpening his online chess skills.
Former Daraa area police chief Mohammad Ahmad admitted that he has abandoned his ambitions of drawing up a blueprint for post-Assad security services, spending his days instead "discovering" Facebook.
"I never knew the whole world was on this site," he said as he browsed through dozens of photographs and anti-Assad propaganda posted by pro-revolution Facebook users.
"Sometimes I feel that this is the closest I will ever get to the revolution," he said.
Political sensitivities and security concerns are not the only barriers preventing the officers from playing a role in the Syrian resistance.
According to a Jordanian security source, despite their ranks, the officers' knowledge of the inner-workings of the maze of security apparatuses that comprise the Assad regime remain limited and often outdated, each only able to provide a brief insight into an entire state built on secrecy.
"In terms of intelligence, there isn't much that these defectors can tell the opposition that they don't already know," said the source, who was not authorised to speak to the press.
Another factor working against the officers' revolutionary aspirations is time itself.
Due to Damascus' more "flexible" retirement policies, many of the officials who have fled to Jordan over the past few months are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, well above fighting age and exhibiting a wide array of health complications.
One of the more "senior" Syrian officials to have joined the swelling ranks of defectors this week is Brigadier General Ahmad Mohammad, a 63-year-old from the Damascus countryside who crossed into Jordan on Saturday.
Suffering from diabetes and having nearly succumbed to pneumonia during his three-day journey to Jordan, the former field officer insists that he is fit to once again lead troops into battle.
"When it comes to defending your homeland, there is no disease that can stop a soldier," he said as he awaited a transfer to a Zarqa clinic for a medical check-up.
Despite the odds, the officers contend they still have a vital role to play in efforts to topple the Assad regime.
"We know how this regime thinks; we know exactly how they will act and react before they do," said Mohammad.
"We should be the ones leading the operations in Aleppo and in Damascus, not these amateurs and jihadists."
No matter whether their ongoing isolation will last days or months, the former brains and brawn of the Assad regime say they are prepared to respond to the call of duty and once again serve their country, albeit under a different flag.
"Although we have all worn the uniform of the regime, underneath we were always Syrian," Abu Mohammad said as he carefully positioned the ceiling fan back into place.
"We are all waiting for the day we can feel Syrian again."