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US Jewish group campaigns for Iran Olympic ban over abuse, killing of athletes

AJC says regime acts against spirit of games — citing execution of wrestler, judoka told not to compete against Israeli, and only female Olympic medalist defecting over sexism

A woman holds a portrait of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari during a demonstration on the Dam Square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on September 13, 2020, against its execution in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz and against the Iranian government. (Evert Elzinga / ANP / AFP)
A woman holds a portrait of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari during a demonstration on the Dam Square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on September 13, 2020, against its execution in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz and against the Iranian government. (Evert Elzinga / ANP / AFP)

The American Jewish Committee announced a campaign on Thursday to ban Iran from the 2021 Olympic Games over its “abysmal” abuse of its own athletes.

“Iran’s record of abuse in sports is just one area of an elaborate tapestry of wholesale violations of basic human rights carried out by the Islamic Republic against its own citizens,” stated the public letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

“To allow Iran to participate in the Tokyo Games would be to signal approval of the country’s gross and systematic violations of human rights,” the AJC said. “Barring Iran would send a powerful message: that athletes are to be protected, that sport is to be practiced freely, and that discrimination and abuse by any country that is part of the Olympic family will not be tolerated. Only thus will the Olympic spirit, a spirit of peace, freedom, and coexistence, truly be upheld.”

The letter listed a number of well-known incidents including the hanging earlier this month of an Iranian wrestler, an execution that triggered international outrage.

Navid Afkari, 27, who had won national competitions, was hanged September 12 after being convicted of murder during demonstrations two years ago in the southern city of Shiraz. The execution was preceded by worldwide appeals for clemency, including from US President Donald Trump.

Israeli world champion judoka Sagi Muki, right, and Iranian champion Saeid Mollaei embrace at the Paris Grand Slam, February 10, 2020, in an Instagram photo posted online by Muki. (Instagram screen capture)

The letter also noted the case of Saeid Mollaei, the Iranian former world champion in judo who fled the country after defying Iranian team orders to lose intentionally during the defense of his title. Mollaei claimed he was ordered to avoid facing Sagi Muki, a high-ranked opponent from Israel.

Iran has not recognized Israel for more then 40 years and enforces a policy of boycotting competitions against its athletes.

Iranian Taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh speaks to the media at a press conference in Luenen, Germany, January 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Additionally the AJC highlighted draconian restrictions and prohibitions on female athletes, as well as the case of Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist who defected earlier this year, citing sexism on the part of officials.

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