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The New Arab

Oman holds military football tournament featuring world's brutal dictatorships

Oman's military team won the football tournament in the capital Muscat [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2017

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North Korea, Syria, Egypt and Iran were among the countries competing in the military football world cup, held in Oman, despite their armies being guilty of appalling human rights abuses.
Oman, Qatar and Syria made it to the finals of the military football world cup on Saturday, with the sultanate lifting the trophy to an ecstatic home crowd.

Oman beat Qatar in a penalty shoot out in the final match to win the little know tournament, which has seen a strong showing from Middle East teams.

The CISM World Cup features military teams from across the world, although many teams participating in the tournament are countries headed by unsavoury military dictatorships.

Among those battling for the prize was North Korea, Iran and Algeria where armies' dominate power (or pro-conservative Republican Guard militias in Iran's case), government spending, and poverty is often rampant.

More controversial was the presence of a number of militaries representing Middle East countries and whose armies have been accused of gross human rights' abuses.

Egypt has seen a massive crackdown and massacres against Muslim Brotherhood supporters and liberals, following a military coup in 2013.

Bahrain has also witnessed the ruthless suppression of anti-government protests by the military since the first demonstrations erupted in 2011.

Probably the worst culprit among the lot is Syria, whose army and air force are responsible for as many as half a million deaths in the country's war - the vast majority civilian.

Syria made it to third place after beating Egypt giving the regime a chance to celebrate another military victory - this time on the football field.

The side ironically lost to regional rival and opposition-backers Qatar in the semi-finals in a penalty shoot-out.

The turmoil in Syria has seen the national football team play home games in Oman, the only Gulf state to provide quiet backing for the regime.

Oman has courted controversy in the Gulf for keeping diplomatic relations with Syria almost unchanged during the six-year war despite GCC partners such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar strongly backing the opposition.

In 2015, Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi visited President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, while leading Syrian regime officials have also made trips to Muscat.

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