Former captain of Syria's football team tortured to death
A Syrian football star, Jihad Qassab, has died in the notorious Syrian prison of Sednaya, north of Damascus, following two years of detention by the Assad regime.
He reportedly died under torture.
The General Commission for Sports and Youth broke the news. Qassab was a former captain of the Syrian national team and played for Al-Karama SC, a football club based in the central city -- and "cradle of revolution" -- Homs from which he hailed.
According to the rebel-sympathetic Homs Media Centre, Qassab died on Thursday. His body has yet to be handed over to his next of kin.
Mosques in the rebel stronghold of al-Waer in Homs broadcasted news of his death.
Qassab's Al-Karama club was once a leading football club in the now war-torn country. In 2006, it qualified to the finals of the Asian Football Club.
Qassab also played for the Lebanese clubs of Al-Ahd and Shabab al-Sahel. He was born in 1975 in the Baba Amr district of Homs, another former rebel stronghold, and is survived by three children.
According to Syrian media reports, Qassab was supportive of the Syrian rebellion. He and a number of other football players in his former club faced repeated pressures before they were detained by the authorities in August 2016.
The Syrian war began in 2011 as peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms in a number of Syrian cities and towns, including Homs. The conflict has since claimed nearly half a million lives and displaced millions. Thousands of Syrians have been detained and tortured.
The mass bombing of cities like Homs and Aleppo has killed dozens of football players, with several others joining the rebels in their fight against the regime.
According to WorldSoccer, several players have been jailed for supporting the rebels, while a number of former international players now play abroad, "disgusted by the idea of playing for a team that represents the regime".
Al-Araby al-Jadeed's Abdul-Rahman Khodor contributed to this report.