Goalkeeper turned rebel fighter dies in northwest Syria

Abdel-Basset al-Sarout

A Syrian goalkeeper turner rebel fighter who starred in an award-winning documentary died Saturday of wounds sustained fighting regime 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 brutal government crackdown on peaceful protests, he took up arms against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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 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 Sarout singing “We will be back, Homs”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 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 Abdel Rahman, said.

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 siblings were killed during bombardment and clashes in Homs, it said.