Syrian boxer Mohammad Mlaiyes, in a show of solidarity with Palestinians and rejection of normalization with Israel, has pulled out of the 19th edition of the Asian Games in China to avoid a contest that had been scheduled to be officiated by an Israeli referee.
Mlaiyes was set to take on Russian-born Bahraini boxer Danis Latypov in the preliminary round of the men’s over 92-kilogram division of the continental event at Hangzhou Gymnasium in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou on Tuesday.
However, he withdrew from the competitions as soon as he found out that Israeli referee Naim Ramaj was scheduled to enforce the rules during the bout.
انسحاب لاعب منتخب سورية للملاكمة محمد مليس من مواجهة منافسه البحريني بالدورة الآسيوية لوجود حكم من الكيان الصهيوني pic.twitter.com/7QPNjm9KQU— حسين مرتضى Hussein Mortada (@HoseinMortada) September 26, 2023
Muhammad Ghassoun, the head coach of Syria’s national boxing team, subsequently presented an objection to the referee committee, but the organizers insisted on their position, and Mlaiyes withdrew as a result.
“Syria, its territories, nation and blood are much more precious than any medal or tournament. It is a country of dignity, pride and resistance against the Israeli occupation,” the boxer said.
كيف اكتشف الملاكم السوري #محمد_مليس وجود حكم إسرائيلي في مواجهته مع اللاعب البحريني؟ وما كانت ردة فعل الجمهور الصيني على انسحابه؟#سوريا #الصين#الألعاب_الآسيوية #AsianGames2023 pic.twitter.com/rhwj4kEI4A— قناة الميادين (@AlMayadeenNews) September 26, 2023
In recent years, an increasing number of athletes from Arab and Muslim countries have rejected facing Israeli opponents in international competitions in protest against the illegitimate regime and its persisting atrocities against Palestinian people.
They view the participation of Israeli athletes in sports events as a scheme to help the Tel Aviv regime gradually normalize its relations with Muslim and Arab nations despite its brutal occupation of Palestine and its relentless crimes against Palestinians.
Last month, Syrian swimmer Hammam Hashim Mualla pulled out of the 2023 World Aquatics Masters Championships in Japan to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.
Last May, Kuwaiti fencer Abdulaziz Alshatti also withdrew from the 2023 Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) Senior World Cup contests in Turkey to avoid taking on an Israeli contestant.
“I withdrew from the tournament because of the presence of a representative from the Zionist entity in the same group,” Alshatti wrote in an Arabic-language post published on his Instagram page at the time.