"How is it possible ?". Franco-Syrian political scientist Firas Kontar shared his surprise on But it's not just any Syrian: the man in question is accused of war crimes. On August 23, Omar Al-Aroub, member of the Syrian national Paralympic committee, was received on an official visit to Paris for a meeting to prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Who is this man, whose Facebook profile is punctuated with photos of Bashar al-Assad in recent years, for whom he displays obvious admiration? Very quickly, several independent media or members of the opposition in Syria attached this photo of a tourist to other, older ones, where we see the same man in military fatigues, displaying the insignia of a heavily armed paramilitary group. passive.
In 2011, President Bashar al-Assad held power in Syria with an iron fist. The only parties authorized are those of the National Progressive Front, a coalition of eight parties created in 1972 by Hafez el-Assad to give the illusion of multipartyism. In reality, it is dominated by the Baath Party. Bashar-el-Assad was the secretary general of this party when, in 2000, he succeeded his father as president.
Very quickly, the new head of state descended into authoritarianism and arrested opponents. In 2007, he was re-elected by a referendum with 98% of the votes. Demonstrations on an unprecedented scale followed throughout Syria, severely repressed by the security services who fired on the protesters.
These agents responsible for repressing the demonstrators are members of a militia called the “Baath Brigades”. This armed wing of the ruling party, formed in 2011 and made up of Sunni Muslims, has nearly 10,000 fighters mainly active in the Aleppo region. Omar al-Aroub, at the time, would have had an active role within these brigades, according to testimonies collected by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, a Syrian NGO based in Paris, and consulted by France 24..
“In 2011, when the revolutions began in Tunisia and elsewhere, Omar al-Aroub hired student volunteers to suppress the protests,” explains Ahmad Mansour, former head of the administrative body of the Faculty of Dentistry in Aleppo, who experienced the Syrian official in 2008. “They often carried batons. In March 2011, Omar even distributed individual weapons (pistols) to students and administrative bodies when they went to mosques. Mosques were then gathering places for opponents of the regime.
“During a meeting of the university management held the same month,” continues Ahmad Mansour, who now lives in exile, “Omar al-Aroub asked the participants to inform him of everything that was happening in the university campus and to repress any gathering. He even asked those responsible for student accommodation to throw all students opposed to the regime from the fourth floor window.
The repression of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations will trigger a real civil war, which will lead to the intervention of foreign forces, the death of more than 500,000 people and the exile of several million Syrians.
If the leaders of the Baath brigades, Hilal al-Hilal (2012-2015) then Ammar Saati (since 2015), appear on European and American sanctions lists, Omar al-Aroub, who is still Saati's second in command, does not is himself the subject of no blame. He therefore obtained without hindrance a visa to attend the seminar of the Heads of Mission of the National Paralympic Committees (CNP) in Paris, from August 24 to 29. He has since taken the plane back to Damascus, specifies LCI which questioned the local media Baladi News.
Appointed representative of the Syrian National Paralympic Committee in 2020, he had already gone to the Tokyo Games in the summer of 2020. Requested by us, the Quai d'Orsay, for its part, simply indicates that "all delegations invited to participate in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games were invited to the heads of mission seminar”, before specifying that the delegations in question are designated “by the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee”.