With protests ongoing against Syrian president President Bashar al-Assad that have resulted in more than 9,000 civilian deaths and another 3,000 from security forces, there has been increasing pressure for Syria to be banned from the London Olympics. Addad has agreed to a cease fire that would take place on April 10, but Britain is still being urged to ban the country because of the turmoil. Former Syria international goalkeeper and current opposition leader Abdelbasset Saroot claims Syria’s athletes would rather not compete in the Olympics but are doing so out of fear.
“They don’t want to play for a flag that they have no pride or faith in,” the 20-year-old told ITV News Tuesday according to Reuters. “I personally know the majority of the athletes don’t want to take part and they are only going (out of) fear (for) their families – the regime repercussions if they don’t comply.
“My message as a footballer, athlete and activist first of all is that we are seeing a real massacre here and the world isn’t speaking except of numbers and death tolls. These are real people, this is a massacre because people are being butchered, people in the world have forgotten about the humanitarian crisis – houses are being demolished.”
General Mowaffak Joumaa, the president of Syria’s National Olympic Committee, responded to Reuters with the following: “There is no question about it — we are taking part.”
One of the main issues raised by Saroot is that the Olympic athletes will have to participate without being informed of what is happening at home. He insists the authorizes continuously shield them from reality so they focus on competing.
“They don’t know the extent of the shelling … they don’t know that a shell could be hitting their mother, father or a relative at any moment in Baba Amr (neighborhood of Homs),” Saroof explained. “There is no Baba Amr now anyway … it’s all demolished. It’s just stones and soil.
“They don’t know that a fellow Syrian footballer Ahmed Al Shedan, may he rest in peace, was martyred here in Homs. He was a star. They don’t know that other athletes’ families have been killed and massacred.”
The situation in Syria is obviously one that is far bigger than Olympic competition, and something should be done about it if the athletes are truly being kept in the dark about their families at home. If athletes are in London out of fear for their safety and don’t even know if their families are in danger, something needs to be done.