Press TV, Tehran
Iranian athletes refraining from facing Israeli opponents is nothing new and has been repeated since the Islamic Republic’s establishment in 1979.
The symbolic gesture is meant to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Here at home, the move earns Iranian athletes praise from authorities. In this ceremony in Tehran, athletics received gold medals from the sports minister for supporting the Palestinian cause.
Boycotting Israeli athletes has not been without problems for Iran. The International Judo Federation has suspended Iran's judokas from international competitions for four years.
Two-time judo world champion, Arash Miresmaeili, who is famous for showing up 2 kilograms for his bout against an Israeli counterpart in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, is now heading Iran’s judo federation and is filing a complaint against the Intl. Judo Federation ban.
The ceremony came days after Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, held a meeting with Iranian Olympians, where he urged the authorities to support Iranian or Muslim athletes of other countries, who are barred by international bodies for boycotting Israelis.
Stepping out of bouts against Israelis is not limited to Iran. Many Muslim athletes from other countries have also jumped on the wagon.
In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the Tokyo games after describing the Palestinian cause as bigger than all of this. He was then banned for ten years by the International Judo Federation.
Pulling out of matches against Israeli opponents has come at the cost of Iranian athletes losing their lifetime dreams, when they are sometimes minutes away from nailing it. But athletes here do not regret it, as they regard it as a win for a bigger cause, a big win for Palestine.