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Iraqi para swimmer gives up Olympic hopes in support of Gaza

Iraqi para swimmer Mohammed Ali Ashour

A teenage Iraqi para swimmer has withdrawn from Paris Paralympics qualifier after realizing he has to compete alongside Israeli contestants.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Ali Ashour, who quit the World Championship in Berlin on May 30 so he can refuse to face off Israeli swimmers, reflected on his decision on Monday.

"We participated and were surprised by the participation of the "Zionist entity." As soon as we started, we found their flag next to our flag,” he said.

“We complained that their flag was close to our flag so thankfully they accepted the complaint and distanced their flag from our flag, but we got also surprised when [we saw that] there was an Israeli swimmer for each Iraqi swimmer in all rounds," Ashour added.

"I am happy that I stood in solidarity with Palestine, the children of Gaza, and the martyrs and thank God, in the end we did something respectable for my people and the Palestinian people."

The comments came amid a genocidal war that the Israeli regime has been waging against the Gaza Strip since October 7, in response to a retaliatory operation staged by the coastal sliver’s resistance movements.

More than 37,600 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have died as a result of the war so far.

President of the Iraqi Para Swimming Federation, Hashem Farag, meanwhile, said the Iraqi National Team’s competition alongside Israeli contestants “would be akin to recognizing them as a state and recognizing their flag."

The Iraqi participants, however, felt proud to have showcased a small form of loyalty to the heroes of Gaza and the Palestinian people in general, he added.

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