Navid Afkari was a 27-year-old Iranian wrestler who was executed by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on September 12, 2020; despite international pleas. Navid had been convicted of killing a security guard during anti-government protests in 2018.
Navid Afkari was born in 1993 (age 27 years; at the time of death) in Shiraz, Iran. He grew up in Shiraz city, which had become a center of anti-government protests that swept the country in 2018. The young wrestler had won some acclaim around Shiraz.
His father’s name is Hossein Afkari, and his mother’s name is Bahieh Namjoo.
He had two brothers, Habib Afkari and Vahid Afkari; both received a sentence of 54 years and six months in prison and 74 lashes, and 27 years and three months and 74 lashes, respectively, in the same case.
After his execution, his mother posted a video on social media in which she pleaded for international help.
They tortured my sons to confess against Navid. There was one sham trial. My children could not defend themselves.” The New York Times
Execution Despite International Pleas
On Saturday, September 12, 2020, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran executed Navid Afkari for his involvement in an alleged murder that took place during the 2018 Iranian protests. According to judicial officials, he was executed on Saturday morning at a prison in the southern city of Shiraz. After the execution, the chief justice of Fars province, Kazem Mousavi, quoted on State TV –
The retaliation sentence against Navid Afkari, the killer of Hassan Turkman, was carried out this morning in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.” Politico
Reportedly, Navid stabbed a water-utility worker, Hassan Turkman, amid the anti-government protest in his home city, Shiraz in 2018. The New York Times The Iranian government executed him despite an international campaign to spare his life. Earlier, Iran had imposed two death sentences on Afkari; one by a criminal court and one by a “revolutionary court,” besides six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes. Fox News Navid Afkari’s conviction met with widespread skepticism in Iran and abroad, and many condemned the action of the Iranian government saying that Navid was being used as an example to silence dissent. While condemning his sentencing, the U. S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter and asked Iran to spare Navid’s life, and he also said that Mr. Navid had done nothing more than take part in a protest against the Iranian government.
To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2020
Iran responded to Trump’s tweet with a video on Afkari in which Afkari was seen riding a bike and confessing that he had stabbed Torkaman in the back. While dismissing Trump’s tweet, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted –
Trump is worried about the life of a murderer while he puts many Iranian patients’ lives in danger by imposing severe sanctions.”
Navid Afkari’s execution led to global outrage. Although Mr. Navid never competed in Olympics, many urged the International Olympic Committee to take action against Iran in case the execution went ahead. After being saddened and shocked by the execution of Navid Afkari, the I.O.C. released a statement –
It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the I.O.C., together with the NOC of Iran, United World Wrestling and the National Iranian Wrestling Federation, did not achieve our goal.”
While condemning the execution of Navid Afkari, a tweet was posted by UN Watch, the only U.N.-accredited NGO that monitors the world body, defends human rights, and fights dictatorships & double standards.
🇮🇷 The Islamic Republic of Iran just confirmed the death sentence of wrestling champion Navid Afkari for participating in 2018 protests against the regime.
🇮🇷 The Islamic Republic of Iran is an elected member of the U.N. Commission on Criminal Justice.
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) August 29, 2020
Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian dissident and journalist, also tweeted against the execution.
This is what the Islamic Republic of Iran does to a mother.
Her name is Behieh Namjou. The regime has sentenced her son #NavidAfkari to death for a simply protesting. Her other sons are unjustly imprisoned
She’s gone from a cheerful and happy mother into a sad and gloomy mother pic.twitter.com/6bqjIqQCw2
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 31, 2020
While condemning the planned execution, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Los Angeles-based human rights organization, tweeted –
World leaders led by Germany, France, and Japan should tell Ayatollah [to] cancel these death sentences or lose your economic lifelines.”
Iran Unrest 2018
In 2018, amid the nationwide protest in Iran against grievances like a weak economy, strict Islamic rules, and water shortages, Navid Afkari, and his brothers, Habib Afkari and Vahid Afkari, were among those demonstrating in Shiraz. Soon, his family home was raided by plainclothes security agents who seized Navid and one of his brothers. Later, the other brother was also arrested by the authorities, and they were sentenced to decades in prison.
- Nabid Afkari worked as a plasterer and had won several wrestling medals in Iranian tournaments. Fox News
- Before Navid Afkari’s execution, Iran had also broadcast the wrestler’s televised confession. Politico
- According to Amnesty International, besides Navid’s execution, Iran also executed 251 people in 2019; placing Iran just next to China in the number of executions that year. The New York Times
- In a letter published by The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Navid had mentioned that he was tortured and forced to confess by the Iranian authorities. While mentioning the detail of the torture, he wrote that they would cover his head with a plastic bag and pour alcohol into his nostrils. Fox News
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