Iran's regime to execute another champion wrestler
Vigil held for Navid Afkari, a wrestler killed by the Iranian regime, in Toronto, Canada
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
“The Olympic Committee has as yet refused to take any serious actions against the regime in Tehran for its bloody assault against athletes.”
The Iranian state’s opaque judiciary is slated to execute a second champion wrestler after it engaged in the widely criticized wrongful hanging of Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari in September for his role in protesting regime corruption.
Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, from the city of Andimeshk in the province of Khuzestan, was arrested in 2015 and charged with murder during a group brawl.
His execution is imminent, according to family members cited on the Persian-language website of Deutsche Welle, a German state-owned international broadcaster.
The victim’s family has not agreed to pardon the athlete for alleged murder, the DW website reported.
Hamid Sourian, the Iranian gold medalist Greco-Roman wrestler at the 2012 London Olympics and vice president of the Iranian Wrestling Federation, has called for the execution to be prevented.
“I beg Dr. Gholami Gheibi, who is one of the prominent doctors in Dezful, as the father of the victim, to please God” rescind the death penalty, he reportedly said.
“I hope that the honorable family of Gheibi will forgive this young man by doing this good deed,” Sourian added.
Cameron Khansarinia, policy director for the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), a nonpartisan organization of Iranian-Americans, on Saturday told The Jerusalem Post: “While most athletes fear the further cancellation of sporting events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes in Iran fear being murdered by the Islamic Republic. After murdering champion wrestler Navid Afkari, the criminal regime occupying Iran intends to put fellow wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini to death.”
“The International Olympic Committee has as yet refused to take any serious actions against the regime in Tehran for its bloody assault against athletes, despite a coordinated campaign by Iranian athletic champions,” he said.
“The regime should be banned from all Olympic and international sports activities until it stops murdering athletes and lifts its gender apartheid laws toward female athletes and fans” Khansarinia said. “The disregard for the lives of Iranians shown by international organizations, including the IOC, has removed any and all of their legitimacy as humanitarian bodies.”
The Post sent press queries on Saturday to the IOC and United World Wrestling (UWW).
MARIAM MEMARSADEGHI, an Iranian-American expert on human rights in the Islamic Republic and a leading proponent for a democratic Iran, told the Post: “Khamenei is ramping up executions, foreign kidnappings and assassinations, taking of foreign hostages and torture in the dungeon to try and repress his way out of the mounting failures and crises inherent to his ideological regime.”
“He is testing the will of the Free World,” she said. “The [US’s incoming Joe] Biden administration and Europe will do him a big favor if they go back to the Iran [nuclear] deal and business as usual.”
Fellow wrestler and coach Habibollah Akhlaghi said: “When I started wrestling, Mehdi Ali Hosseini wrestled with my younger brother in the same age group, and he is really a good and moral wrestler.”
The coach, who also is from Khuzestan province, said Hosseini “loves wrestling, and during his years in prison, he became the champion of the country’s prison wrestling competitions.”
Additional decorated Iranian wrestlers have urged the clerical regime not to execute Hosseini, including Ali Ashkani, the current coach of Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling team; Saeid Abdoli, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics and is a former world wrestling champion; and Mohammad Talaei, the former world freestyle wrestling champion.
Prior to the Iranian regime’s alleged extrajudicial killing of Navid Afkari, some decorated Iranian wrestlers protested on social media against his planned execution. After what appeared to be regime pressure, the athletes scrubbed their social-media protests.
It is unclear what prompted the change in open protest by some elite Iranian wrestlers since Afkari’s hanging.
The campaign United for Navid, which was launched by Masih Alinejad, a women’s-rights activist and founder of the My Stealthy Freedom/White Wednesday campaign, wants the IOC and other sports federations to ban Iran’s regime from competition.
Afkari’s plight garnered global attention and focused outrage on the Iranian regime’s use of hangings to silence opposition and criticism.
Rob Koehler, director-general of the sports human-rights advocacy organization Global Athlete, told the Post: “The Iranian regime murdered Navid Afkari on 12 September 2020, and now they have another wrestler, Mehdi Ali Hosseini, scheduled to be executed. How much more evidence does the IOC and United World Wrestling need to suspend the Iranian National Olympic Committee?”
“Both of these organizations failed to intervene to save Navid’s life,” he said. “Now they must step up to save Mehdi’s life and protect all Iranian athletes. The fact that the IOC continues to neglect its duty of care for athletes by failing to take action against Iran is a gross abdication of duty. Their willingness to stand by while athletes are jailed, tortured and executed cannot longer be tolerated. The IOC and UWW must act now.”