Middle East

Syrian goalkeeper who became rebel icon dies in Hama battle

Abdel-Basset al-Sarout, a popular protest singer from Homs, died of wounds sustained in fighting in Syria’s northwest.

    A Syrian goalkeeper turned rebel fighter who starred in an award-winning documentary died on Saturday of wounds sustained fighting government forces in northwestern Syria, his faction and a war monitor said.

    Abdel-Basset al-Sarout, 27, was a goalkeeper from the central city of Homs, who became its most popular singer of protest songs after the Syrian uprising broke out in March 2011.

    Following a government crackdown on peaceful protests, he took up arms against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

    Al-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, the commander of the rebel faction Jaish al-Izza, announced al-Sarout’s death in a message on Twitter, describing him as a “martyr” who died “fighting for the sake of God”.

    The message was accompanied by a video showing al-Sarout singing “We will be back, Homs”.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said al-Sarout was wounded in clashes in the northern Hama countryside in the night of Thursday to Friday while fighting in the ranks of Jaish al-Izza.

    “He died of his wounds on Saturday,” the head of the Britain-based observatory, Rami Abdurrahman, said.

    Al-Sarout was evacuated from Homs in 2014 under a surrender deal with the government to end a two-year siege of its historical centre, according to the observatory.

    His father and four of his siblings were killed during bombardment and clashes in Homs, it said.

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