Olympics Jerk Watch: Meet the Wealthy Syrian Show Jumper Who Loves Bashar al-Assad

A Blog About the Olympic Games
July 29 2012 3:41 PM

Olympics Jerk Watch: Meet the Wealthy Syrian Show Jumper Who Loves Bashar al-Assad

Ahmad Saber Hamcho
Ahmad Saber Hamcho of Syria rides Wonderboy 3 during the 16th Asian Games.

Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Home country: Syria

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Known for: Horse jumping, regime defending, willful ignorance.

Why he might be a jerk: The 19-year-old Hamcho is the nephew of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who for the past year has been waging war against his own people in an attempt to stamp out political dissent. In June, Hamcho told the Times of London, "I personally don't think the regime is doing anything wrong, as [some] are accusing them. … My government is only protecting people from guys with weapons." Hamcho went on to assert that the Assad regime was merely defending itself against “terrorists.” Hamcho's father, Muhammad Hamcho, heads multinational conglomerate Hamsho International, and is said to be the money man behind Assad's campaign of repression; in 2011, the United States imposed sanctions against him. Muhammad Hamcho also bankrolls his son’s pricey equestrian hobby. Not surprisingly, Ahmad thinks his father’s a great guy, too.

Why he might not be a jerk: Must the sins of the father (and president) be visited on the son? Hamcho is a rich teenager who lives in London, and his understanding of the situation in Syria might not be particularly up to date. He's not personally repressing anyone, as far as I know. Plus, his horse is named "Wonderboy." That is one of the least jerky names you could possibly choose for your extremely expensive show horse.

Jerk score: I'll give him 3 out of 3 on style, because defending a hated strongman’s bloody intimidation campaign is hard to top jerk-wise. I'll give him 1.5 out of 3 on technical merit, because he could have threatened to kill the Times reporter and didn’t. I'll give him 1.5 out of 3 for consistency, because while he was very consistent in the interview he gave, he only gave one interview. And he gets 1 out of 1 in the category of "has he ever publicly defended a murderous, indefensible regime." 7 out of 10 for Ahmad Saber Hamcho.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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