19th April 2021

Iranian Athletes Forced to Withdraw or Throw Matches to Prevent Them from Competing Against Israeli Competitors

Prominent Iranian athletes and human rights activists with the United For Navid campaign continue to stand together to demand that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) immediately address the violations of the Olympic Charter by the Iran Olympic Committee. Today, the United For Navid campaign has sent a follow up letter to the International Olympic Committee with documented cases of athlete abuse and further breaches of the Olympic Charter.

These cases provide clear evidence that the Iran National Olympic Committee and Iranian Sport continue to refuse their athletes the right to compete against Israeli athletes and continue to threaten those who come forward. Cases provided to the IOC include:

• Iranian Olympic athletes forced to withdraw from races because an Israeli athlete was in the same heat.
• Iranian Olympic athletes forced to withdraw from or lose matches to avoid facing Israeli competitors in final events.
• Coaches on numerous occasions witnessed Iranian athletes who were forced to lose games on purpose to avoid facing an Israeli competitor in international competitions. Furthermore, these coaches have been threatened with arrest should they speak out.
• World Champion athletes were required to fake injuries to avoid competing against Israeli athletes.
• Athletes were tortured and imprisoned for wanting to compete against Israeli athletes.
• Athletes have been fleeing Iran to safely compete for other countries.
• Female athletes that refuse to wear a hijab while playing their sport are being forced to flee the country and their families in Iran are being threatened.

International Olympic Committee to fully investigate athlete abuse in the Islamic Republic of Iran

“On 5 March 2021, we sent a letter to the IOC outlining cases of athlete abuse by Iranian Sport officials. Shockingly, the IOC has yet to respond. These additional cases provided to the IOC are further proof of why the IOC must immediately act and fully investigate the athlete abuse in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The fact that Iranian athletes are being forced to throw matches to avoid competing against Israeli athletes is a clear breach of the Olympic Charter and Olympic values. There is a grave fear of retribution for those that come forward, a very real fear not just for individual safety but for the safety of their families. The IOC must protect these athletes and the IOC needs to act yesterday.” said Sardar Pashaei, former Coach of Iran’s national wrestling team.

Background: United For Navid is a campaign created by a group of prominent Iranian athletes and human rights activists, after the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari, to call on international sporting bodies to act against Islamic Republic’s violation of sporting rules and athletes’ rights.

Click here for the Letter to the International Olympic Committee (Note: The list of athletes has been removed to protect these individuals and their families).

• This media release was published by the United For Navid campaign on 19 April 2021 via email.

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