Why did the World Karate Federation not React to the Execution Threat of Karate Athletes?
On December 11th of last year, on the days when many people around the world were anticipating Christmas festivities, as I was terrified at the thought of two athletes in prison and in danger of execution by the murderous Islamic Republic regime, I wrote a letter and emailed it to many personalities and sports organizations including the World Karate Federation and the International Olympic Committee and bluntly explained that this regime had a notorious records of arrests, tortures and forced confessions under duress and execution of athletes in many instances.
Iran is on the verge of a revolution. This revolution is shaped in the minds of the majority of the Iranian people, and transition from this ideological regime towards secularism and democracy is becoming more and more feasible every day. Street protests in its most civil form, support Iran’s integrity, ethnic freedom and the LGBTQ community while considering secularity as one of its most important causes. This revolution pays special attention to the human rights and dignity of women and does not tolerate mandatory hijab and misogynist laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran regime.
On January 7th, the regime executed two athletes by hanging while the international sports community, especially the WKF and the IOC, had not reacted at all to stop the execution of the two. In the past too, the World Karate Federation had repeatedly ignored the anti-Israeli policies of the Karate Federation of the Islamic Republic. Fariba Madani, the vice-chairman of the WKF Referee Commission, despite being aware that Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were in danger of execution, unlike what was expected, did not react to take a stand against this execution or persuade the World Karate Federation to initiate a deterrent action. Ali Azizi, a class A referee and head of the Belgian National Karate Federation, also remained indifferent to the threat of execution of these two athletes. Javad Salimi, the former head of the Referee Commission of the Islamic Republic Karate Federation, known as WKF’s broker in Iran who is also very close to Antonio Espinos did not speak up or take a position against this. These are Iranian influential figures in the World Karate Federation. This is while the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Karate Federation is a member of the security forces and Shahram Heravi, the head coach of Iran's national karate team, is also a member of the repressive forces affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Meanwhile, voices of Nasim Varasteh, a karate gold medalist and former member of the WKF Athletes Commission, and a number of other karate athletes were not heard, as expected. They had asked to stop the execution of these two athletes on their social media pages.
Mohammad Mahdi Karami was a karate medalist of Iran. His father makes a living as a street vendor. Mohammad Hosseini, the other executed athlete, had no one to receive his body. Both were arrested in the street and without the right of having a private lawyer, were tortured to give false confessions. They were executed while the world sports community remained in utter indifference.
But the Iranian people’s revolution will carry on.
Written by Farzad Youshanlou
SportsEmic editorial team – Jan 2023