The Iranian government executed wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini on Monday, January 25, in spite of condemnations from the international community, showcasing the ayatollahs’ disregard of human rights and its insecurity over protests.
This echoes the case of champion wrestler Navid Afkari who was executed in September, despite an international campaign to save his life. Afkari was arrested during protests in August 2018, alongside his brothers. Recently, government-linked individuals destroyed his tombstone and arrested his coach.
Shortly before his execution, 48 famous Iranian athletes, including wrestler Moslem Eskandar Filabi, wrote to the International Olympic Committee to highlight Iran’s use of violence against athletes.
“Execution of Athletes, Champions and Olympians in Iran by the ruling regime is not new. Many Athletes have been executed to date only because they had responded to the voices of their conscience and their Athletic duties when it comes to the oppression of people by the regime. The regime in Iran cannot tolerate popular figures in Iran,” the letter read.
As the letter explains, the Islamic Republic has executed dozens of athletes over the past 41 years for their political beliefs.
In 1981, the government executed national heavyweight wrestler Houshang Montazer-ol Zohour and the captain of Iran’s football team, Habib Khabiri, for their support of the opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI).
Many more were killed during the 1988 massacre, including a member of the women’s national volleyball team, Forouzan Abdi, and a member of Iran’s national soccer team, Mahshid Razzaghi. This is the massacre that UN human rights experts recently said could be called “crimes against humanity.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that executions in Iran are increasing, especially when you consider that two of the main perpetrators are the current Justice Minister and Judiciary Chief and when you understand that Iran has faced no consequences for their actions.
“The regime faces a restive society, which has shown its desire for regime change during recent uprisings. Thus, the ayatollahs will continue their human rights abuses and execute national figures to intimidate the public,” wrote the Iranian Resistance.
Iranian dissidents called on the international community to take action to hold the government to account, which they said is the only way that the ayatollahs will stop the executions and the massacre of protesters, i.e., 1500 killed by State Security Forces (SSF) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the 2019 protests.
They advised that the EU’s new global sanctions regime to punish human rights abusers should be used against the ayatollahs by placing sanctions on Tehran’s leaders and making relations with Iran conditional on an end to human rights violations. Then, the EU could lead an international investigation into the 1988 massacre.