The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s wrestling federation, Alireza Dabir, urged “Death to America” in a television interview on Wednesday, a little over a month before a wrestling dual meet slated to be held between the national teams of the U.S. and Iran in Arlington, Texas on February 12.
In addition to Dabir’s shocking anti-American statement, Fox News Digital can reveal that Dabir is a U.S. green card holder, according to Iran’s former Greco-Roman national team wrestling coach.“We always chant ‘Death to America’ but importantly is showing it in action,” said Dabir, who won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000. He added that “A doctor, he might even be wearing a tie, but he is doing his job well. He is saying ‘Death to America.’ Some talk a lot but don’t do much. We need to prove it [Death to America] with an action.”
Pashaei, a former world champion Greco-Roman wrestler, oversees the United for Navid campaign. The organization seeks to commemorate the memory of and secure justice for Afkari.
“Why should someone [Dabir] who has been one of the athletes very close to the Iranian government in all the past years and part of the government’s propaganda be able to travel freely to the United States?” Pashaei asks.
The United States government—under both Democratic and Republican administrations—has designated Iran’s clerical regime the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism.
Pashaei continued, “The US government and security agencies should take the entry of such people seriously because they are part of a force very close to the Iranian government. In the past, we saw the presence of terrorists in the guise of ambassadors and diplomats, and now we see the regime sending its people in the form of athletes, including Javad Foroughi, a [sport] shooter and a member of the Revolutionary Guards, at the Tokyo Olympics [last year].”
Foroughi was sent to Syria to aid the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has killed over 500,000 people in the war-ravaged nation. The US classifies the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The IRGC has been responsible for the murder of more than 600 American military personnel, according to the US government.
Lawdan Bazargan, a prominent Iranian-American human rights activist from California who was imprisoned in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison for political dissent, told Fox News Digital: “It’s a shame that the US gives residency to people like the president of Iran’s Wrestling Federation. Dabir, who wants to act on the slogan of “Death to the U.S.,” received a green card while hundreds of thousands of Iranians who were forced to leave Iran by the Islamic Regime are in refugee camps around the world, waiting for a country to accept them.”
Fox News Digital sent press queries to Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, which is the organizer of the dual meet between the American and Iranian teams.
Pashaei noted that Iran’s regime “arrests, tortures and executes innocent athletes, including Navid Afkari, solely for engaging in peaceful protest, and took Afkari’s two brothers hostage, imprisoning them. The Iranian government has also barred millions of women from competing in wrestling and has blocked their aspiration to participate in international competitions.
“We ask: How can USA Wrestling turn a blind eye to these issues and unilaterally invite those who say ‘Death to America’ in front of the cameras and viewers?”
Navid Afkari’s brothers, Vahid and Habib, were arrested, like Navid, in 2018 for their peaceful protest against the Iranian regime in Shiraz. An Iranian court sentenced Vahid to 54 years and six months imprisonment and Habib to 27 years and three months in jail, as well as 74 lashes each.
The clerical regime claims that Navid killed a security guard who monitored the protest in 2018, but the star chamber-like proceeding provided no proof of the killing.
Pashaei said, “On behalf of thousands of Iranian athletes, we urge you to refrain from hosting Iranian-government sponsored athletes as long as that government tortures and executes athletes, deprives women of participation in competition, and chants ‘Death to America’ in their media.”
“Refrain from inviting officials and athletes who are tools of government propaganda that is anti-woman and anti-American. Your participation in events with Iran will certainly seriously damage the reputation of American wrestling and wrestlers,” Pashaei urged.
The powerhouse wrestling teams from the University of Iowa and Oklahoma State University are slated to compete against each other on February 12 in Texas along with Iran and the U.S. squad.
The deep dissatisfaction among elite Iranian athletes prompted many defections in 2021. The London-based Iran International news outlet reported in December that Greco-Roman national team wrestler Ali Arsalan defected and will represent Serbia in competition. According to Iran International, roughly 30 elite Iranian athletes have recently defected for reasons ranging from women being forced wear a hijab and Iran’s discriminatory directive that their athletes cannot compete against Israelis.
Benjamin Weinthal is a Jerusalem-based Journalist and a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.