Goalkeeper turned rebel fighter dies in Syria
A Syrian goalkeeper turned rebel fighter who starred in an award-winning documentary died Saturday of wounds sustained fighting regime forces in northwestern Syria, his faction said. Abdel-Basset al-Sarout, 27, was among dozens of fighters killed since Thursday in clashes on the edges of the Idlib region.
The region, dominated by an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, is supposed to be protected by a months-old buffer zone deal. But it has come under deadly regime bombardment in recent weeks, sparking fears for its roughly three million residents.
Before Syria’s eight-year civil war, Sarout, from the central city of Homs, was a goalkeeper for the country’s youth football team. When peaceful demonstrations broke out against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2011, he joined in and soon became a popular singer of protest songs. Following a brutal government crackdown on the protests, he took up arms.
Sarout starred in the documentary “Return to Homs” by Syrian director Talal Derki, which tracked his evolution from protest leader to fighter, and won a top prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Jameel al-Saleh, commander of the rebel faction Jaish al-Izza, announced Sarout’s death in a message on Twitter, describing him as a “martyr”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sarout was wounded in overnight battles Thursday to Friday while fighting in the ranks of Jaish al-Izza. “He died of his wounds on Saturday,” said the head of the Britain-based monitor, Rami Abdel Rahman. Sarout was evacuated from Homs in 2014 under a surrender deal with the regime to end a two-year siege of its historical centre, according to the Observatory. His father and four of his brothers were killed during bombing and clashes in Homs, it said.
On Saturday, Syrian activists and opposition figures took to Twitter to mourn him. Since 2011, the conflict has killed 370,000 people and displaced millions.