Self-exiled Iran athletes urge Olympics organisers to investigate abuse claims

Self-exiled Iran athletes urge Olympics organisers to investigate abuse claims
2 min read
21 July, 2021
Following the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, a group of exiled athletes from the country are calling on Olympic organisers to investigate allegations of abuse against sportsmen and women.
Iranian athlete Navid Afkari was executed in September 2020 [Getty]

Iranian athletes have urged Olympic organisers to investigate allegations of abuse and discrimination against sportsmen and women by Tehran authorities. 

The self-exiled athletes, who say they were threatened and forced to flee their country, accused Iran of breaching the Olympic Charter, which commits organisers to "take action against any form of discrimination and violence in sport".  

Following the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari in September 2020 - who was allegedly tortured into a false confession after attending anti-government protests - a series of letters were sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) calling for an investigation into 20 cases of alleged abuse against athletes in Iran. 

The United for Navid campaign, launched after the 27-year-old’s execution and composed of prominent athletes and human rights activists, provided the IOC with a "list of athletes who have been tortured, beaten, arrested and denied access to competition and sport". 

United for Navid also created a petition demanding that Iran is suspended from all international sporting events - including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics  -  unless it "adheres to the Olympic Charter and Olympic values".  The petition currently has 627 signatures. 

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"Human rights are athlete rights, and athletes need the IOC to uphold the Olympic Charter to protect Iranian athletes," said Iranian wrestling champion Sardar Pashaei. 

Pashaei was the coach of Iran's national wrestling team before he fled to the US in 2009 following "interference" from authorities. 

"Navid Afkari's death will not be in vain, we need immediate action to ensure these horrific acts stop immediately," added Pashaei.

The IOC said in an emailed statement to The New Arab that it is reviewing the claims of abuse and will refer any allegations to the National Olympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"Should the IOC consider the National Olympic Committee has a case to answer relating to potential violations of the Olympic Charter, a procedure will be opened to fully establish the facts and take the necessary measures," the statement read.  

This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.