The executive manager of United for Navid, an Iranian-run sports organization advancing the human rights of its athletes, filed a formal letter of protest this past week with the International Olympic Committee, arguing that the Islamic Republic should be suspended from the IOC because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged discrimination against Israeli athletes.
Sardar Pashaei, a former head coach of Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling team, wrote to IOC President Thomas Bach that a video of Khamenei’s anti-Israel speech is “further proof [of] Iran’s grievous violations of the Olympic and Paralympic charters.”
Attached to the letter was a video of Khamenei from September 17, in which he meets with Iranian Olympic and Paralympic athletes who won medals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Pashaei wrote: “As you can see, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic once again firmly instructs Iranian athletes, as well as Iranian sports officials, that they are forbidden from competing or interacting in any way with athletes from the so-called ‘Israeli criminal regime.’”
“The Supreme Leader also instructs senior Iranian sports officials to support non-Iranian athletes from other countries who refuse to compete with Israeli athletes, including an Algerian athlete who refused to compete with an Israeli athlete at the Tokyo Olympics.”
Pashaei, a Greco-Roman wrestler who won a world championship, said: “The Iranian leader further tells the athletes that the illegitimate Israeli regime wants to gain legitimacy by participating in international competitions and that Israeli athletes should not be allowed to compete and win medals. This is a clear example of political interference in sports by the highest-ranking official of the Iranian government and is in direct violation of the Olympic and Paralympic charters.”
United for Navid is named after the murdered champion Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari, who made international headlines last year prior to his execution by Iran’s regime because he protested against Khamenei’s corruption.
Pashaei, who currently lives in the US, noted that, “as previously reported in separate letters regarding the sacrifice of Iranian athletes for not being allowed to compete with Israeli athletes, we again formally request that as long as Iran pursues such policies, which are systematic violations of the Olympic and Paralympic charters, the International Olympic Committee suspend Iran from international competition and undertake an official investigation into the current state of Iranian sports.”
Sheina Vojoudi, an Iranian dissident who fled the Islamic Republic, told The Jerusalem Post that “Khamenei is injecting his lethal ideology into sports and he’s oppressing Iranian athletes – who train for a lifetime to participate in the Olympics to have a fair competition with other athletes from all around the world – to give up their efforts and dreams for his dangerous and genocidal ideology. Ali Khamenei is ruining lives and dreams for his hatred towards Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.”
Vojoudi, who is well versed in Iranian wrestling and the country’s top grappling stars, added: “Iranian athletes won’t have any problem with facing Israeli athletes, but the inhuman rules of the Islamic Republic put their lives in jeopardy. They have only three options when it comes to competing with Israeli athletes: They can refuse it and lose their dream of winning an Olympic medal; they can compete and flee the country; [or] they can compete and go back to Iran and face the consequences which cost them their whole life and also imprisonment.
“This is a violation of human rights and the Olympic Charter,” she said. “The regime in Iran doesn’t care about Iranian athletes. Iranian female athletes are suffering from [having to wear] compulsory hijab in the competitions. They don’t even believe in hijab, like most Iranian women, but they are forced to have it against their own free will.”
Bach has shown no appetite to punish Iran’s regime for its antisemitism, or to sanction Tehran’s rulers for their widely reported extrajudicial killing of Afkari.
In September, Iran arrested Sheyda Hamedani, a popular Iranian poet, who used her poems as a form of activism against the theocratic state.
Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-American journalist and activist for religious minorities in Iran, told the Post that “it is truly heartbreaking to witness the total silence from the Biden administration and many European countries to the Iranian regime’s random arrest and disappearance of Sheyda Hamedani, who had the courage to publicly speak out against the regime’s human rights abuses.
“He’s not a criminal, he’s a poet who called on the people of Iran to non-violently protest against the regime’s failure to help people dying daily from COVID,” Melamed said. “Why aren’t any Western leaders holding this Iranian regime accountable for their crimes against the innocent people of Iran?”
Sheyda Hamedani, a publicly known poet from Iran, who has read many poems against the regime, was taken to an unknown location by security forces. It's not clear in what state he's at the moment.Join the campaign to get him released#ReleaseSheyda pic.twitter.com/rkdzKJh0hm— Masih Alinejad ️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 23, 2021
Iranians have since launched a social media campaign to secure Hamedani’s release. Masih Alinejad, Voice of America journalist and women’s rights campaigner, tweeted: “Sheyda Hamedani, a publicly known poet from Iran, who has read many poems against the regime, was taken to an unknown location by security forces. It’s not clear in what state he’s at the moment. Join the campaign to get him released #ReleaseSheyda.”