Iranian weightlifter Amir Asadolazadé has claimed he fled the country after being pressured to wear a T-shirt with the picture of General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US bombing in Iraq in January 2020 . Asadolazadé applied for asylum in Norway in November.
“I refused to wear the shirt and they threatened me: if you refuse, you and your family will have problems when you return to Iran,” Asadolazadé said in an interview with CNN.
“You are treated like someone who is against the regime, who has refused to cooperate with us. In addition, your life is in danger,” said the award-winning athlete, quoting a representative of the Iranian regime within the International Weight Lifting Federation responsible for these threats.
Last year, Asadolazadé caused some controversy last year when he dedicated his bronze at the Club League World Cup to health workers fighting the coronavirus instead of the long-awaited commitment to Soleimani, reports CNN.
Now he assumes that he may never see his wife and family again. “The regime of the Islamic Republic is trying to force athletes to get involved in politics. I ask the International Olympic Committee and all organizations involved to help Iranian athletes and not to accept that they are forced to leave their country, their homeland. just because they have no choice but to leave, “added Asadolazadé.
Another exiled Iranian athlete, Sardar Pashaei, has assured that this is yet another example of government pressure to make sport a political tool. “What other country in the world forces an athlete to wear the image of a political or military figure and punishes those who do not?” He said in a statement to the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.
Pashaei is the director of United for Navid, an organization denouncing the execution of Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari. Pashaei himself was a master of Greco-Roman wrestling and coach of the Iranian Olympic team, this very popular discipline in Iran.
For Pashaei, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is “not taking any action in support of athletes”. “That is why we will see more cases of athletes in dangerous situations,” he said.
An Iranian water polo player, Amir Dehdari, refused to attend a reception with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was arrested and flogged. A video of the back and leg injuries was posted shortly thereafter, reports CNN.