Opinions

Wrestler Throws Match and Other Stories

December 5, 2017
Weekly Roundup
3 min read
Wrestler Throws Match and Other Stories

Dear friends,

On Friday, Iranians around the world were glued to their monitors or cell phones to find out which group Iran would be placed in for next year’s World Cup competition in Russia. Iran will be playing in the Group of Death, facing Portugal, Spain and Morocco. Whatever happens, it’s going to be mesmerizing over the next six months, with many Iranians expressing a huge range of hopes, fears and predictions that will keep everybody on their toes. 

Sports in Iran, like most things, is monopolized by the government. All federation bosses need to be approved by the government, and all lucrative sports contracts go to the Revolutionary Guards or government cronies. So in essence Iranian sports reflect Iranian politics and vice versa. And at times, this has a paralyzing effect for Iranian athletes. During the Wrestling Under-23s World Championship in Poland, the coach of Iran’s biggest freestyle wrestling team urged Ali Karimi, a young star wrestler, to lose so that he wouldn’t have to face an Israeli rival in the next round. Iran doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and Iranians are banned from dealing with citizens of Israel. It was the second time in two years that Karimi was forced to opt out of competing with an Israeli athlete and missed an opportunity to prove himself and win a medal. After complaining that he didn’t receive any financial compensation last year, he was awarded 60 gold coins by the ministry of sports. 

In another, more amusing, event, a male Thai coach for the women’s kabbadi team (find more about kabbadi here) saw no other option but to don a hijab and sneak into a venue so he could lead his team. The head of Iran’s kabbadi federation tried to dismiss the incident as unimportant, but Iranian social media users made fun of the Thai coach, as well as the ridiculous sartorial laws in Iran. 

Baha’is continue to face discrimination and appalling treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities, but recently, there have been a few signs of hope, however slight. A third prominent Baha’i was released from prison after serving his sentence, and at the same time, President Rouhani’s administration made encouraging (if vague) noises that it is taking steps to restore the civil rights of the Baha’is. It remains to be seen whether the government will take concrete steps to bring about change. 

Thousands of miles away, in New York, Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab began giving testimony in a big money laundering case that brought huge amounts of money to Iran in contravention of sanctions law. The coming weeks will reveal more about just how many key political figures were involved in undermining international efforts to deal with Iran. 

This week we also look at the links between Nigeria’s main Shia group and Iran. The group, whose leader is in jail, says the government is trying to get rid of them, and has implemented a set of repressive policies against them. But will the Islamic Republic be able to turn the building chaos and growing sectarianism in Nigeria to its own advantage? 

Reverberations from the sexual abuse and harassment scandals in Hollywood and in other sectors continue. But when IranWire talked to women working in the television and cinema industry in Iran, none of them felt comfortable putting their names forward. And even though Faghiheh Soltani, who publicly supported the idea of getting these stories out a year ago, says she wishes she’d never spoken out in the first place — which speaks volumes.

As always, please let me know if you have any comments. 

Warm regards 
Maziar

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