A SYRIAN athlete has provoked anger from opposition forces by declaring his steadfast support for Bashar al-Assad ahead of competing in the London Olympics.
Ahmad Hamsho, a 19-year-old show jumper, denied his government’s role in growing violence in the war-torn Middle Eastern country, saying he doesn't think the regime is doing anything wrong.
“My Government is only protecting people from guys with weapons,” he told The Times newspaper.
“I know that there are terrorists in my country who are bombing civilians and I hope that we get rid of them. And those others who are protesting for a valid reason, I hope my Government will protect them.”
The conflict in Syria has left more than 10,000 dead – many of them women and children – over the last 15 months, according to reports.
Mr Hamsho, who has lived in London for around three years, will be part of a 10-person team of Syrian athletes.
Speaking on behalf of his team-mates, he said: “We must represent the Syrian people and we must also represent Dr Bashar al-Assad, who is still our President.
“We all agree on this point of view as a team.”
There have been calls for the team to enter as a neutral entity.
Mr Hamsho, who will be one of the youngest competitors, is also one of the most controversial ue to his family’s close ties to the Assads.
His father Mohammed, a Sunni businessman, has been denied entry to the UK to watch his son due to EU sanctions over his alleged cronyism and corruption. He is also accused of fronting Assad’s younger brother Maher, who has been a key figure in quashing the uprisings.
Mr Hamsho denied the allegations against his father.