Fears for disappeared Iranian wrestler who supported Navid Afkari

"Several Iranian security agents went to the wrestling club and asked for him."

Vigil held for Navid Afkari, a wrestler killed by the Iranian regime, in Toronto, Canada (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Vigil held for Navid Afkari, a wrestler killed by the Iranian regime, in Toronto, Canada
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An Iranian dissident social media platform on Monday called 1500 Images said on the social media platform Instagram that the decorated Iranian Greco-Roman wrestler Amin Bazrgar disappeared after showing support for his friend, the murdered wrestler Navid Afkari.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sought Bazrgar, who has been missing for six months, reportedly because he wrote in favor of Afkari. Bazrgar wrote on his Instagram account shortly before his disappearance a poem in support of Afkari titled “Our silence is betrayal,” according to 1500 Images.

1500 Images seeks to remember the 1,500 Iranians killed by the regime for demonstrating against the corruption of the theocratic state in November 2019. 1500 Images is considered a credible source. Bazrgar has been arrested several times for his support of Afkari, wrote 1500 Images.

Sardar Pashaei, the former coach of Iran’s national Greco-Roman team, told The Jerusalem Post “This is the situation of Iranian athletes.  We either hear about their arrest, or their death sentence, or their disappearance.  What we know so far about Amin Bazrgar is that he has been missing for more than six months and there is no news about his fate. What is worrying is that his relatives have confirmed that before Amin disappeared, several Iranian security agents went to the wrestling club and asked for him. “

The Iranian-American Pasahei, who is the director of the United for Navid campaign, added “He was a student of Mohammad Ali Chamiani, the coach of Navid Afkari, and he trained in the same club. Since the execution of Navid Afkari and the international reaction, the pressures from the security forces on the athletes have increased. They do not tolerate the slightest protest. Those who write on their social media pages are immediately summoned and face threats and reprimands. It is for such issues that we have called on the International Olympic Committee and international sports organizations to exclude Iran. And in the case of the USA Wrestling's invitation to Iran, we also reminded them that as long as the Iranian government repeatedly violates the rights of athletes, they should refrain from holding such competitions, which are only in the service of government propaganda.”

Navid Afkari (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Navid Afkari (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Iran's regime executed Afkari in 2020 for his role in a peaceful protest against worsening economic conditions in 2018. An Iranian court claimed Afkari killed a security guard tracking demonstrators at the protest. The court provided no evidence that Afkari killed the security official.

Bazrgar has won numerous national Greco-Roman wrestling championships in Iran. He won a bronze medal at the Gholamreza Takhti international wrestling competition seven months ago in Tehran. Takhti was an Iranian Olympic Gold-Medalist and one of Iran’s most decorated wrestlers. Bazrgar comes from Shiraz, the same city as Afkari,  in the province of Fars.

Banafsheh Zand, an Iranian-American journalist and human rights expert, told The Jerusalem Post "This is par for the course. They [the Iranian regime] disappear people all the time. If that person is lucky enough to have politically savvy enough friends and relatives, those people  will scream at an early enough time for the regime to become uncomfortable  enough to make indications or react.”

Zand said Bazrgar “is either being held in involuntary detention or was killed. It is one of the two. It is unfortunate that this information is getting out so many months later because with proper media and activist attention the regime would have been made to at least react.”

She urged the United World Wrestling to speak out against Tehran’s rulers in the case of Bazrgar.

“This happened to my father [Siamak Pourzand]. They took him. We started to immediately activate human rights organizations and media, and we were able to bring attention to his case and forced the regime to respond.“

The clerical regime later tortured and killed the prominent journalist Pourzand in 2011.

Zand filed a lawsuit in a Washington court against the Islamic Republic of Iran and various authorities, including the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the country’s former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, for “severe personal injuries and other irreparable harm suffered as a result of the defendants’ unlawful acts of terrorism, torture, hostage-taking and extrajudicial killing.”

The lawsuit also asserts that Islamic Republic of Iran agents sought to kidnap Zand and issued threats against her.