A well-known Iranian powerlifter is seeking asylum in Norway after fearing for his life for refusing to wear a t-shirt featuring assassinated Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
In an interview with CNN, Amir Assadollahzadeh came under fire for failing to dedicate a medal won in a World Club League Championship to the late commander, and instead choosing to dedicate it to Iran’s healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.
“Both Soleimani and Assadolazadeh hail from the same province in Iran, and his dedication to the healthcare workers was regarded as a snub of Soleimani’s memory,” the report said.
Senior sports officials then insisted he redeem himself by wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the arch-terrorist’s image into the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in Norway in November. The refusal to do so landed him in hot water.
“I refused to wear the shirt and I was confronted with threats: If you refuse to wear the shirt, upon your return to Iran, both you and your family will face problems,” Assadollahzadeh told the network.
Amir Assadollahzadeh: Fearing torture and possible execution, Iranian powerlifter quit team in Norway and ran for his life – CNN https://t.co/6MXsiUD9pn
— Don Riddell (@donriddellCNN) December 20, 2021
“You will be treated like someone who is against the regime and someone who has refused to work with us. Your life may also be in danger,” he added.
Sardar Pashaei, manager of the United for Navi advocacy group supporting the wrongfully executed Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari, said Assadollahzadeh’s case was just the latest in a string of similar ones.
“The case of Amir Assadollahzade was one of the cases that showed how much Iranian athletes are under pressure from the Iranian government and have become victims of politics,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
“In what other country in the world does an athlete have to wear the image of a political or military figure and be punished for not wearing it?”
Pashaei’s group sent the reports of Iranian athletes to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “because if the IOC does not take serious action to support athletes, we will see more athletes in dangerous situations.”
Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.