The story of the world champion of bodybuilding: "We are not terrorists"

06 July 2013

Firas Saied was the world champion in bodybuilding in 2010. He is Syrian, and comes from the city of Homs, a city that has suffered gravely under the Assad regime. Saied, like many other youth in Syria, joined the revolution early on. He joined peaceful protests with his friends and athletes before he was detained and tortured in 2011.

Firas Al-Saied with a Syrian Child holding the cup. Source: Facebook page.
Firas Al-Saied with a Syrian Child holding the cup. Source: Facebook page.

In an interview with the Syrian Media Center, Saied said, “My body was strong enough to take the torture, but the real problem remained in the humiliation that I couldn’t take.” He explained further, “We have lived under this humiliation and the injust sectarian regime for years,” but as an athlete, Saied never receieved any assistance from the government. “Even my airplane ticket to Italy to join the champion was out of my pocket,” he said. “I had to borrow money to cover that,” he added, sighing deeply.

Saied is just one example of many young Syrians who, for a long time, had no hope of growing up to shine in their own country. A handsome, muscular, and motivated young man with dark honey hair and hazelnut eyes, he pushed himself to practice and end up winning the World Champion of Bodybuilding in 2010.

Firas Saied in world championship 2010

On the other hand, Saied was never recognized in Syria, not as a citizen nor as an athlete. Before the revolution, barely anyone in Syria had heard of him or of his accomplishments. He couldn’t even find a simple job to feed himself and his family. As a world champion, he never received any kind of benefits to support him nor to motivate him further. He said he needed the revolution and he jumped right into it looking for freedom, dignity and justice.

Firas Al-Saied prays to God after winning. Source: His facebook page.
Firas Al-Saied prays to God after winning. Source: His facebook page.

The Syrian revolution remained nonviolent for a very long time, and when the regime pushed it to become militarized, Saied, like many others, didn’t want to let go of its origins, but he wanted to fight back for his dreams, for his future and for the better life he wanted to build. Though Syrians carried weapons to defend their families and dreams, they never changed. Their beards grew and their faces were hardened, because they were pushed to do something they never wanted to do: fight. But from the inside, they remained the same young Syrians who dreamed of a better future and never wanted to lose that hope.

“We are not terrorists," Saied said. "Yes, we are Muslims, but we don’t have such a thing as extremists among us."

Saied was killed by regime troops in Homs on July 4. He died while still fighting for his dream of a new Syria. 

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad