Outrage over Iranian regime’s arrest of sister of executed wrestler

Iran has persecuted wrestler Navid Afkari's family since he and his two brothers were arrested in 2018 for protesting against the regime.

A portrait of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari during a demonstration on the Dam Square in Amsterdam, Sept. 13, 2020.  (photo credit: EVERT ELZINGA/ANP/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
A portrait of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari during a demonstration on the Dam Square in Amsterdam, Sept. 13, 2020.
(photo credit: EVERT ELZINGA/ANP/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Islamic Republic of Iran officials on Thursday arrested Elham Afkari, the sister of the executed Iranian national wrestling hero Navid Afkari, claiming Elham is an “agent” for the London-based Iran International news organization.

Iran International wrote on Twitter: “ [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] IRGC-affiliated media are falsely claiming that she was “an agent of @Iranint [Iran International].”

The US government has sanctioned the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

Iran’s regime also arrested Afkari’s husband and their 3-year-old daughter. Iran International’s 24-hour reporting about the protest movement rocking the clerical state has deeply angered Tehran’s rulers.

 Iranian flag is seen at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, September 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA) Iranian flag is seen at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, September 8, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)

The clerical regime’s intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, on Tuesday termed the dissident news outlet a “terrorist” organization.

Iran International said "Iranian officials and government-controlled media have repeatedly accused foreign-based Persian media for fomenting the unrest, without presenting any credible proof...In desperation to prove foreign conspiracies, the Islamic Republic may arrest more people and activists, and accuse them of collaborating with Iran International or other media outlets."

Iran International has reported exhaustively on demonstrations gripping the theocratic state in response to the alleged murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police in September. The notorious morality police arrested Amini for failing to properly cover her hair with a hijab.

Iranian regime police authorities deny Amini was tortured and killed during custody, claiming she died due to a heart attack. Amini’s father said the Iranian police are lying. The clerical regime has arrested an estimated 15,000 protesters since mid-September, reported Iran International. The Norway-based group Iran Human Rights said the regime's forces have killed over 300 people since the nationwide revolts unfolded in September.

The execution of Navid Afkari

Iran’s regime executed the 27-year-old champion Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari in September 2020. Human rights organizations, Afkari’s family, and Western governments said Afkari was framed for the killing of Hassan Torkman, a regime and water company security employee who was tracking protestors during a demonstration in Shiraz against worsening economic inflation and political corruption.

Afkari was tortured, according to a witness. Afkari said he was forced to confess to the crime at this trial due to torture and flatly denied any role in the murder of Torkman.

“There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realised they are looking for a neck for their rope,” said Afkari at the time.

Afkari’s case turned into an international cause célèbre, with then-president Donald Trump urging Iran’s regime to stop the execution.The International Olympic Committee, United World Wrestling , the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Dana White, and the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom had also urged that Afkari be spared.

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported “It should be noted that she [Elham Afkari] is the sister of Navid Afkari, the killer of martyr Torkman, an employee of the regional water company of Fars province.”

IRNA added that “Intelligence operatives have been monitoring the activities of Elham Afkari for the past few years…she was one of the main leaders in organizing recent riots.”

Iranian regime-controlled media showed pictures of Elham’s arrest, in which she was photographed in with black blindfold over her face in the back of a security vehicle with barred windows.

Elham’s brother, Saeed, confirmed his sister’s arrest on the micro-blog Twitter. Saeed said his sister was sent to a department of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence ministry and her husband and daughter were later released.

“Elham was taken to No.100 intelligence ministry department,” Saeed tweeted.

The clerical regime has persecuted the Afkari family, according to human rights organizations, since Navid and his two brothers, Vahid and Habib, were arrested in 2018 for participating in a demonstration against the regime.

Vahid is currently in solitary confinement while his brother was released in March 2022. Iranian regime authorities have repeatedly detained and harassed the Afkari family when they visit Navid’s grave.

Iran International said on Thursday: "The Islamic Republic’s Judiciary is not independent and both prosecution and judges answer to the same bureaucracy that closely collaborates with intelligence services. The accused usually are denied the chance to choose their own attorneys and have little access to their case files. In case of political prisoners, such as detained protesters, trials are generally unfair."