No one is safe or protected by the Syrian regime, and all are subject to arrested, detention and torture in the regime prisons. Even athletes, who in theory should be protected and celebrated for bringing international glory to the country, are not safe.
Amer, a talented 19-year old athlete from Edlib, dreamed of becoming a footballer with the Barcelona team. However his dream ended in Syrian regime prison after he was detained six months ago on terrorism accusations.
Amer was known for having a strong personality. He was forced to take responsibility for his mother and six siblings in Qaboun, then in Barzah after the attack and siege of Qaboun.
Walid, a talented basketball player who used to play in the al-Karamah basketball team and the Syrian Youth team was left with no choice but to leave the country to save his life.
“I was forced to leave the country in the first year of revolution after being threatened with arrest. I had to leave to the north of Iraq, where I now play for an acceptable salary,” he said.
One father, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the story of his son, an athlete who used to play in a team in Damascus and was detained. The father was forced to pay more than 2 million Syrian Pounds to a sergeant to release him. Afterwards he sent him to live securely in a liberated area.
"My son has swore not to come back to play in any team in Damascus until the regime is overthrown,” the father confirmed.
Badia, another talented, table-tennis player and a member in the national team, was forced to leave the country after Shabbiha and security forces raided his house in Edlib. He decided to leave to Turkey to find a job rather than practicing his hobby, as he felt it inconvenient to do sport in the middle of that difficult circumstances and daily death.
“We have lost interest in anything in life," he said.
Monzer Akbik, the chief of staff to the leader of the Syrian National Coalition, told Zaman al-Wasl that the Syrian regime has targeted not only athletes, but doctors, engineers, all educated people and others.
He said the reason for targeting athletes was their fame and effect on communities and their ability to rallyt them to join the revolution . He confirmed the Coalition’s support to the General Authority for Sport and Youth, and revealed that many Karate player were honored by the Minister of Education for their achievement in Kosovo.
Orwa Kanawati, the spokesman for the General Authority for Sport and Youth in Syria commented on the fact that Syrian regime has targeted athletes saying: “It is well known that sport is very important in Syria. Since the start of the Syrian revolution, the regime wanted to use athletes to suppress demonstrations, and when some of them rejected the killing of their people, the regime targeted them either by detention or death."
Kanawati added that till the end of 2013, 182 athletes were killed, and 198 were arrested. He believes that the regime wanted to threaten families and friends of athletes to stop supporting revolution or the armed opposition or to prevent them from defection from their clubs.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer