The German organization Athleten Deutschland on Tuesday called for the Islamic Republic of Iran to be banned from the Olympics over its execution of the Iranian Greco-Roman champion wrestler Navid Afkari.
Maximilian Klein, a representative for International Sports Policy at Athleten Deutschland said that "The International Olympic Committee [IOC] and the International Sports Federations must exclude the Iranian regime from the international sports system with immediate effect."
He added that “the inaction of the IOC is unacceptable. Iranian athletes should continue to be allowed to compete under a neutral flag and should be protected. Sanctions must be directed against the regime and the political leadership. The Iranian Olympic Committee must also be suspended by the IOC."
The German government-funded athletic organization said in a statement that “the killing of Navid Afkari by the Iranian regime is a terrible act against humanity and an intolerable violation of the human rights of an athlete. This act cannot remain without consequences for Iran. Its government instrumentalizes sports for its purposes and has made an example of Navid Afkari, a protesting athlete. Iran is not the only country in international sports that disregards human rights, but with the killing of the 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari it has crossed a line.”
Iran’s regime executed Afkari on Saturday, triggering a global outcry over the murder of a reportedly innocent wrestler for protesting the regime’s corruption in 2018. The Iranian authorities claim Afkari killed a water company security guard during the nation-wide protests. But overwhelming evidence, including a widely-confirmed forced confession, show Iran's regime likely framed Afkari to silence the social and labor unrest unfolding in Iran.
Athleten Deutschland said Afkari’s “execution is the appalling culmination of repeated attacks on the values that form the foundation of the international sports community. The actions of the Iranian regime are fundamentally irreconcilable with Iran's continued membership in this group.”
The organization noted that other mandatory sanctions include the suspension of Iranian federations by the respective international federations and a ban of hosting any international sporting events in Iran. "The Iranian regime and its representatives must not be allowed to gain positive public attention from international sports. The sponsors of the Olympic Movement must clearly distance themselves from the Iranian regime.”
The IOC told rhe Jerusalem Post that “the IOC, as a civil, non-governmental organization, has neither the remit nor the ability to change the laws or political system of a sovereign country. This is the legitimate role of governments and the respective intergovernmental organisations. Exclusion of an NOC from the Olympic Games would punish the athletes of this country just because they live under a particular political or judicial system. This is even more true given that the NOC of Iran facilitated the IOC’s efforts in this case."
The IOC and United World Wrestling are facing growing criticism from human rights groups and sports experts to sanction Iran’s regime and because of their allegdly feeble posture toward stopping the execution. Writing in the British paper The Guardian, Craig Foster, a former international footballer, said "once again, institutional sport was largely silent."Emblematic of the traits of global governing bodies when athletes or fans are being harmed, is the statement by United World Wrestling, the governing body of Afkari’s sport, which was issued after his death.
Foster, who is now an Australian Multicultural Council Adjunct Professor for Sport and Social Responsibility at Torrens University, asked “where were the statements last week with threats of sanctions by the organization’s president, Nenad Lalovic, asserting Afkari’s human rights and demanding the cessation of his execution?”
Lalovic and the UWW refused to answer Post queries. The Post asked if Lalovic plans to resign.
Foster took the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach and Lalovic to task for using “a well-worn path of soft diplomacy and behind-closed-doors’ conversations, appealing for mercy.” Critics maintain that non-assertive action against the hard and brutal men who run the Islamic Republic is ineffective.
Foster's article was titled: “Navid Afkari's unjust death reinforces case for human rights accountability in sport.”
A Post query to Rich Bender,the executive director of US Wrestling, was not returned. Bender has refused to comment about Iran’s execution of Afkari.
The German sports journalist Christoph Becker, who writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote that the international sports organizations should have "enforced their rules long ago” against Iran because “there would have been a chance to use influence” in Afkari’s case. Becker said Bach’s stress on respecting Iran’s sovereignty does not sound like imposing “consequences” on Tehran's rulers for Afkari’s execution.
When asked if Bach plans to resign, the IOC declined to answer the Post's question.
In a seperate but related Iran sports news development, the US government media outlet Radio Farda reported on Tuesday that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) "unilaterally canceled" its contract for the live broadcast of the AFC Champions League soccer matches with Iran’s clerical regime. The AFC said it cancelled the contract to honor the international sanctions against Iran's state-run broadcaster.
Michael Rubin, an Iran expert with the Washington DC-based American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the National Interest that "Afkari may be gone, but historians will look at his execution as the day Khamenei ended the Iranian and Western hope for internal reform and instead signed the death warrant for the Islamic Republic."
The German sports advocacy organization said “The elevated position of sport can make such atrocities, which are inflicted on countless people every day, visible worldwide. Sport and the athletes can be an important force to bring attention to such grave injustices and bring about social change. It is therefore imperative that the sporting system itself is based on human rights and that it protects those people who are in its sphere of influence.”