Syrian Olympic chief banned from UK

The head of the Syrian Olympic Committee will not be present at London 2012 after being denied a visa, according to reports.


General Mowaffak Joumaa has been denied entry to the UK this summer due to his ties with the Syrian military and with the country's President Bashar Assad, whose regime has been accused of taking part in or condoning a string of atrocities in recent months.

The BBC reported that the decision was made at a meeting between Home Office, Foreign Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sport officials in Whitehall.

Joumaa had been invited to the Games by the International Olympic Committee, but the IOC are expected to ratify the UK decision in due course despite the Syrian official not being on the European Union's list of Syrian nationals who are barred from travelling to the EU.

The Home Office has so far refused to confirm the report that Joumaa is being denied a visa, saying that they "do not discuss individual cases".

In April, former Syrian international goalkeeper Abdelbasset Saroot claimed that most of Syria's athletes did not want to take part in the Games under "a flag that they have no pride or faith in".

"I personally know the majority of the athletes don't want to take part and they are only going (out of) fear (for) their families - the regime repercussions if they don't comply," he said.

"My message as a footballer, athlete and activist first of all is that we are seeing a real massacre here and the world isn't speaking except of numbers and death tolls.

"These are real people, this is a massacre because people are being butchered, people in the world have forgotten about the humanitarian crisis - houses are being demolished."

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