Popular American podcast host Joe Rogan devoted part of his show on Tuesday, which has 9.5 million followers, to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s execution of the champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari.
While discussing international wrestling with American Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable, Rogan said about Afkari and the regime in Tehran: “It seems like what they were/are doing was just making sure that people were scared. If they can kill a man who’s so beloved – a national hero – they would kill anybody.”
Rogan started off his podcast on the media service platform Spotify by telling Gable that “I am sure you are aware what happened recently… with the Iranian wrestler who was killed because he was involved in a peaceful protest and they made an example out of him.”
Gable responded by doubting the Islamic Republic’s reason for executing Afkari in September 2020: “And they claimed that he killed somebody, but you know you can claim whatever you want to help satisfy the people. But chances are he didn’t.”
Human rights organizations and many Western governments contend that Iran’s regime imposed an extrajudicial execution on Afkari because he protested against regime corruption in 2018.
On Monday, the US State Department issued its annual human rights report including on the situation in Iran. According to the report, “Five UN special rapporteurs condemned the execution as ‘summary’ and concluded that it appeared to have been used by the government ‘as a warning to its population in a climate of increasing social unrest.’”
The report said that “according to HRANA [Human Rights Activists in Iran], on December 17, authorities arrested Afkari’s father and a brother as they sought to clear a site in Fars Province to lay a gravestone memorializing Navid Afkari’s death.”
Wrestler Sally Roberts, a two-time world bronze medalist, tweeted her thanks to Gable and Rogan “for talking about all things wrestling – including the execution of #navidafkari. No athletes should be killed for participating in peaceful protests.”
Thanks @dannygable and @joerogan for talking about all things wrestling- including the execution of #navidafkari No athletes should be killed for participating in peaceful protests... https://t.co/oruZ14GTo8— Sally Roberts (@wrestlingsally) March 31, 2021
The US State Department wrote that “the Iranian authorities, according to widespread media reports, executed professional wrestler Navid Afkari convicted of murdering a sanitation worker, who was also a law enforcement officer, during anti-government protests in 2018 in Shiraz.”
The report added that the “authorities arrested Afkari and his brother, Vahid, one month after the protests and charged them with taking part in illegal demonstrations, insulting the supreme leader, robbery and ‘enmity against God.’”
“In early September the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence imposed upon conviction by a criminal court in Shiraz against Navid and a 25-year prison sentence for Vahid convicted for assisting in the alleged murder, while simultaneously dismissing the brothers’ allegations that security officials obtained their confessions under torture and used as ‘evidence’ against them a forced confession broadcast on state television Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB),” the report said.
After Afkari’s execution in September, the Trump administration sanctioned the prison and judicial officials involved that same month.
Trump awarded Gable the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments as a wrestler and as coach of Iowa University’s wrestling program.