International Judo Federation Changes Twitter Name to #ISupportMollaei

September 2, 2019
3 min read
By replacing its Twitter name with the hashtag #ISupportMollaei, the International Judo Federation has declared its support for the Iranian judo champion Saeid Mollaei against the Islamic Republic.
By replacing its Twitter name with the hashtag #ISupportMollaei, the International Judo Federation has declared its support for the Iranian judo champion Saeid Mollaei against the Islamic Republic.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) has changed its Twitter handle in support of an Iranian judo champion who it claims is being harassed by the Islamic Republic.

The IJF altered its name to #ISupportMollaei on September 2 to show its backing for Saeid Mollaei, who it said had been pressurized by the Iranian state to throw a judo match.

Iranian agents allegedly told Mollaei to lose the semi-final of the World Judo Championships in Tokyo last Wednesday to avoid facing Sagi Muki, an Israeli judoka, in the finals.

IJF President Marius Vizer called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “minutes before” the start of the match to “rail against the pressure brought against the athlete and his family,” according to the Times of Israel.

The paper reported that Mollaei’s mother phoned him from Iran before the fight against Belgium’s Matthias Casse and “begged him to lose the round so he would not have to fight the Israeli, bow to him, or stand next to him on the winners’ platform.”

Iranian intelligence agents were allegedly in Mollaei’s family home at the time.

Vizer later informed the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that Mollaei had approached the IJF for help.

Muki went on to become the first Israeli to win the under-81kg category of the competition after defeating Casse in the final.


Threat of Suspension

The incident has sounded alarm bells for the future of international sports in Iran.

Vizer threatened Rouhani with the “complete exclusion” of judokas representing Iran at the 2020 Summer Olympics, according to the Times of Israel.

He said he hoped Mollaei, a former World Champion, would compete as a member of the Olympic Refugee Team.

While the IJF does not have the power to ban Iranian athletes, the threat is reportedly “backed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach,” the paper said.

Prior to this incident, the IOC had already asked the IJF and United World Wrestling (UWW) to report any political interference in Iranian sports.

The UWW president Nenad Lalović subsequently warned the head of Iran’s Wrestling Federation, Rasoul Khadem, that all Iranian sports were in danger of suspension from international competitions.


Violating the Charter

The revised Olympic Charter, adopted in September 2017, states: “The  enjoyment  of  the  rights  and  freedoms  set  forth  in  this  Olympic  Charter  shall  be  secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”

The code also requires national Olympic committees to “resist all pressures of any kind, including but not limited to political, legal, religious, or economic pressures which may prevent them from complying with the Olympic Charter.”

On September 1, the IJF officially announced it would convene a special session to decide on “Iran’s future” in the coming week.

The IJF is likely to suspend the Iranian Judo Federation and ban Iranian judokas from international competitions. But the bigger threat is that all Iranian sports might be suspended by the IOC.

Khadem is the only high-level Iranian sports official who has dared to challenge the Islamic Republic’s ban on Iranian athletes competing against Israelis.

But after calling on both the Supreme Leader and the Supreme National Security Council to change this unwritten law, he was forced to resign in March 2018.

Now the issue has become a global concern, he fears it may no longer be possible to resolve through diplomatic means.


Related Coverage:

Judo Champion May Seek Asylum After Throwing Key Match, September 2, 2019

The Iranian Fugitive Boxer Who Said No to the “Israel Ban,” February 25, 2019

Will Iranian Wrestlers Compete against Israelis?, September 4, 2018

Guards: Don’t Compete with Israelis or We’ll Break Your Legs, March 6, 2018

The Islamic Republic Already Recognizes Israel, December 5, 2017

Wrestler Forced to Lose to Avoid Competing Israeli, November 2017

Chess Grandmaster's Brother Also Abandons Iran, October 2017

Iranian Footballers Make History by Defying Israel Ban, August 2017

Will Iran be Banned from the World Cup?, August 2017

The Fear of Competing Against Israel, February 24, 2017



The Master and Us

September 2, 2019
Mana Neyestani
International Judo Federation Changes Twitter Name to #ISupportMollaei