With the Olympic Games underway, we’ve already seen inspirational stories of lifelong dreams coming to fruition through sport. But some athletes never get the chance to reach their potential or attend the Olympic Games. Consider Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestling champion. Navid will never get to compete in the Olympics, despite being a world class athlete, because he was murdered by the Iranian regime for opposing the government. Yet despite this appalling crime committed by Iran, as well as many others, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other sporting bodies continue to allow Iran to compete. Why?
The tragic story of Navid occurred after the 2018 Iran protests, in which thousands of Iranians rose up against the government’s oppressive rule. Afkari, who was a critic of the regime, was accused of killing a security guard during the protests and was promptly arrested. He was charged with murder and convicted after a torture-induced confession and with highly questionable “evidence.” Despite calls from the IOC, US president Donald Trump, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White not to execute Afkari, the regime moved forward with the execution in September 2020.
The execution was widely condemned by world leaders and international bodies around the world, yet somehow Iran is not only competing in the Olympics in Tokyo but has sent at least one controversial “athlete” to represent the country who also happened to have been an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) militant in Syria from 2013 to 2015. Javad Foroughi, whom Iran claims is a nurse who learned to shoot only a few years ago, won the gold medal for men’s 10m air pistol shooting last week. In an interview from earlier this year, he speaks candidly about how he was sent to Syria repeatedly and stationed near Damascus to “stand guard” in the midst of the Syrian civil war. Additionally, he’s been widely praised by both Iran’s state-run Press TV and the IRGC. Apparently, the IOC has no problem with someone competing in the Games who honed his skills participating in terrorism.
Iran’s alarming abuse of athletes is not new. It’s been occurring since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. For example, in 1981, wrestler Hooshang Montazeralzohoor was executed for his anti-government stance. In 1988, the regime executed volleyball player Fouzan Abdi and football player Mahshid Razaghi – both political dissidents. In 1984, they executed football player Habib Khabiri for the same reasons. In 2012, they executed kickboxer Majid Jamali-Fashi, accusing him of being an Israeli spy. In 2021, after the execution of Afkari, they executed a second champion wrestler, Mehdi Ali Hosseini as well as a champion boxer and prominent sports coach, Ali Mutairi.
How many athletes have to die under this regime for the IOC to take action? It’s not as if Iran conducts its business in a sportsmanlike fashion in any case – Iran has been throwing matches to avoid Israelis for years, repeatedly forcing athletes to resign rather than face Israeli athletes. In one of the most famous cases, Iranian wrestler Saeed Mollaei threw a match in judo to avoid facing an Israeli, only to defect later and compete for another country after fleeing to Berlin.
He is not alone. Dozens of Iranian athletes have fled the oppression of the regime which destroys their hard work and dreams. One Iranian ex-athlete who fled to the United States confessed to CNN that Iranian intelligence watches the teams 24/7 and they are punished if they do anything wrong while abroad. “I want to ask [the] IOC, are you aware of this? You talk about gender equality and race equality. Are you aware that one of your members is violating the charter all the time? You have been silent about this… This is sport, it has to be about peace and friendship, but they teach you to hate,” he said.
The IOC has no excuse. It is well known and documented – by both international human rights organizations as well as refugee athletes who have fled Iran for their lives – that the state of Iran violates every principle the Olympic Games represent. Iran has no place in the Olympics and the IOC cannot continue to allow these egregious violations of human rights to occur right in front of their faces. The IOC must ban Iran from the Olympic Games.
Source » jpost