Iraq fencers withdraw from World Championships to avoid duels with Israelis

Iraq fencers withdraw from World Championships to avoid duels with Israelis
The withdrawal will set affected Iraqi fencers off course as they try to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games, but 'strong national principles are worth more than all championships,' the Iraqi Fencing Federation said.
2 min read
25 July, 2023
The Iraqi fencing body said it was pulling out of some of the tournament in line with Iraqi law [Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty]

Iraq partially withdrew on Monday from the 2023 World Fencing Championships to avoid playing members of the Israeli team.

"The Iraqi Fencing Federation decided to withdraw from the World Championship… after the draw placed them in a group that included players from Israel," the Iraqi Fencing Federation said in a statement.

Iraqi Ali Salman was set to play Israeli foil fencer Raz Goren on Monday at the tournament taking place in the Italian city of Milan from 22-30 July, according to the statement.

The Iraqi fencing body said it was pulling out of some of the tournament in line with Iraqi law. In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament voted to criminalise relations with Israel, including in sporting and cultural realms.

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Other Iraqi players would be allowed to compete in the tournament if not drawn against Israel, the statement read.

The withdrawal will set affected Iraqi fencers off course as they try to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games, but "strong national principles are worth more than all championships", the statement read.

Iraqi athletes from other sports have also pulled out of tournaments in protest at playing Israelis, as have sportspeople from other Arab and Muslim countries.

Just three months ago, the federation pulled out of the Fencing World Cup in Istanbul over Israeli participation in the tournament.

While Iraq has criminalised ties with Israel, some Arab states have moved to normalise ties with the Israeli state, in what Palestinians and their supporters have slammed as a "betrayal" of the Palestinian cause.