People's attitudes conflict about following or boycotting FIFA world cup in Russia
The attitudes of the people in Northern Syria conflicted about this year's FIFA world cup tournament held on Russian territory. The competition opened with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia; this match ended with Russia winning over Saudi Arabia by five goals to zero.
People of the Idlib governorate expressed their discontent about holding the tournament in Russia, which is considered the Syrian government's main ally and partner in committing several war crimes against the civilians in different Syrian regions.
Artist Aziz al-Asmar, who is famous for his murals that he mostly paints on the rubble of destroyed houses, called on to boycott the world cup tournament this year. Aziz said that Syrian people love sports and cheer the international competition, but this year, they feel tormented "for holding the tournament in criminal Russia, which does not respect human rights and has no ethics or morals."
Al-Asmar reported that sports depend a great deal on morals, adding that holding the tournament in Russia was a massive mistake because Russia is far from moral or even human, especially after it killed innocent people and children in Syria in cold blood.
Al-Asmar painted a mural on a wall in the city of Binnish, Northern Idlib, urging to boycotting the world cup tournament. The painting showed a Russian bear sitting inside the cup and holding children between its bloodstained claws, in an indication to the victims that the Russian warplanes killed in Syria.
Abu Majid, a coffee shop owner from the city of Saraqib, Idlib, expressed his discontent about holding the tournament in Russia, saying that he will not cheer for any team this year. As a coffee shop owner, Abu Majid found himself obliged to prepare his place to receive people who want to watch the matches, which are a relief after seven years of war.
Even though that most people interviewed by SMART expressed discontent about Russia hosting the tournament, all people said that they would watch the matches. Mahmoud, a resident of Saraqib, noted that the world cup tournament, which is held once every four years, forces sports lovers to follow it. Mahmoud said that people are not satisfied with maintaining the tournament in a country that participates in killing the Syrian people, adding that Russian warplanes had committed a massacre in the town of Zardana, Western Idlib, just a few days before the tournament started.
Earlier in May, the General Commission for Youth and Sports, in collaboration with the Syrian Free Federation for Football, organized a football match for players that had their limbs amputated from loyalist forces' and Russian airstrikes. The match aimed to highlight these crimes and to call on for boycotting this year's world cup tournament. In Northern Hama, football players demonstrated in demand to boycotting the tournament, raising banners that read, "The world cup tournament in Russia is covered with Syrian blood."
The discontent about holding the tournament in Russia was not limited to Syria. There were worldwide calls that demanded to boycott the tournament due to the Russian criminal behavior. The Avaz organization launched a campaign titled "Hell on Earth," which was signed by more than 880.000 people, calling on for boycotting the Russian tournament until Russia stops bombing Syrian children.
The Human Rights Watch said that this year's world cup tournament would be held during "the worst judicial crisis in Russia since the Soviet Union." The organization added that the world leaders "should refrain to attend the opening ceremony in Moscow if the Kremlin would not take real measures to protect the lives of more than two million people in the Syrian governorates of Idlib and Daraa from chemical and other attacks.
The United Kingdom announced that it will diplomatically boycott the world cup tournament in Russia and will not send any representative to Moscow. However, this announcement came on the grounds of the poisoning incident of the Russian agent Sergei Skripal and not on the grounds of the Russian breaches in Syria. The official spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, said that any diplomatic boycott would not affect the tournament, adding that "the teams' performance is the most important in the world cup tournament, not the arrival of officials or representatives."
The Human Rights Watch condemned the other breaches that Russia commits against the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and human rights. The organization added that the International Federation for Football (FIFA) adopted a legal policy in 2017, by which it pledged to take the necessary measures to protect human rights defenders when their freedom is endangered, including using the FIFA influence with the concerned authorities. The FIFA did not receive any measures against Russia, despite this policy.
In its report, the Human Rights Watch included a list of breaches that Russia committed, such as a not granting entry for the reporter of the German government's ARD media network, on the grounds of the reporter's intensified work on covering the scandal of Russian athletes taking steroids. The organization condemned banning any journalist his right to do his job.
Russia, which hosts the most significant sports event in the world, faces sanctions related to crimes against humanity, war crimes, suppression of freedoms and is accused of assassination attempts. Russia also faces sanctions pertaining to scandals about Russian athletes taking steroids in a systematic and officially sponsored manner, according to the International Olympic Committee.
On his Instagram account, the Russian world champion of lightweight wrestling, Khabib Nurmagomedov, said that the Egyptian football player, Mohammad Salah, should not be granted entry to Russia. This is similar to banning the German journalist from entering the country to cover the world event. Activists considered the Russian wrestler's comment an indication to how Russia treats its opponents, even in sports.