The decorated Iranian powerlifter Amir Assadollahzadeh is seeking asylum in Norway since his November defection to avoid execution or torture in the Islamic Republic of Iran for his refusal to sport a T-shirt of the late US and EU-designated terrorist Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most powerful military commander, who oversaw the killing of over 600 American military personnel, and was assassinated on January 3, 2020 by an American drone strike.

Assadollahzadeh told CNN sports journalist Don Riddell that a representative from the clerical regime with the International Powerlifting Federation pressured him to wear the T-Shirt.

“I refused to wear the shirt and I was confronted with threats,” Assadollahzadeh said, adding “If you refuse to wear the shirt, upon your return to Iran, both you and your family will face problems.”

Assadollahzadeh continued that “And you will be treated like someone who is against the regime and someone who has refused to work with us. Your life may also be in danger.”

Sardar Pashaei, the manager of the United for Navid campaign that seeks justice for the wrongfully executed champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, told The Jerusalem Post that “The case of Amir Assadollahzade was one of the cases that showed how much Iranian athletes are under pressure from the Iranian government and have become victims of politics. In what other country in the world does an athlete have to wear the image of a political or military figure and be punished for not wearing it?”

Pashaei, a renowned Greco-Roman Iranian wrestler world champion who coached Iran’s national Greco-Roman team, added that “We have sent the reports of Iranian athletes to the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and we are still waiting for their response. Because if the IOC does not take serious action to support athletes, we will see more athletes in dangerous situations.”

The elite Iranian powerlifter Assadollahzade opted to defy the Islamic Republic and did not participate in the International Powerlifting Federation competition in Norway.

The 31-year-old athlete had previously defied the regime’s revolutionary ideology. In an earlier 2021 competition, Assadollahzade was expected to dedicate his bronze medal from World Club League Championship to Soleimani because they come from Kerman Province. The powerlifter paid tribute instead to healthcare workers fighting Covid-19 in Iran, wrote CNN.

He told the news network that he might never see his wife and family again.

“The Islamic Republic regime is forcefully trying to get the athletes involved in politics. I ask the International Olympic Committee and all related organizations to help Iranian athletes and not be okay with these athletes being forced to stay away from their country, their home, just because they are faced with no other choice but to leave,” said Assadollahzadeh.

He noted that “I am very, very, very unhappy at the fact that I may never see my family again. It is very painful for me. It is very difficult for me to put it in words.”

When speaking to his father on the telephone, his father wept, reported CNN. “It was the first time in my life that I saw the tears of my dad,” said Assadollahzadeh.

Assadollahzadeh could have faced a similar fate as the Iranian water polo player Amir Dehdari who refused to meet the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. CNN reported that the regime arrested Dehdari and whipped him. “Video that he took after the event shows his back and legs almost totally covered in horizontal red marks,” wrote CNN.

CNN noted that “For many years, it has been an open secret in international sports circles that the Iranian government won’t allow its athletes to compete against Israelis.” The IOC has taken not imposed penalties on Irans’ regime for its discriminatory policy against Israel.

Khamenei urged Iranian athletes in 2021 to boycott their Israeli competitors: “That’s why I ask you and dear sports officials and athletes, don’t be ashamed. They will continue fighting us. So, it is the duty of our Ministry of Sports, Foreign Ministry, and legal channels to support our athletes. We can’t let our athletes compete with athletes of a murderous regime for the sake of a medal.”

The US state department has classified Iran’s regime as the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism and the globe’s worst state-sponsor of antisemitism.

Source » jpost