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Tags: iran | powerlifter | amir assadollahzadeh | soleimani

Iranian Powerlifter Who Defected Feared Jail, Torture Upon Returning Home

Iranian Powerlifter Who Defected Feared Jail, Torture Upon Returning Home
A boy carries an Iranian flag at a rally on Feb. 11, 2020, celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 04 January 2022 06:18 PM

An Iranian powerlifter is seeking asylum in Norway after defecting in November to avoid jail, torture and possibly execution upon his return to his home country over his refusal to make a dedication to Qasem Soleimani.

Amir Assadollahzadeh told CNN that he ''had no choice'' but to flee his hotel in Stavanger, Norway, in the middle of a tournament, saying that had he been forced back to Iran: "I am 100% sure that I will face jail, torture and maybe even worse than that — execution."

Assadollahzadeh is from the same region of Iran as Soleimani, who was commander of the Quds Force and a main ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike in 2020.

According to Assadollahzadeh,  after winning a bronze medal at the World Club League Championship earlier this year, he faced backlash for dedicating his medal to healthcare professionals fighting COVID-19 in Iran rather than Soleimani.

Before the IPF World Championships in November, he said, he was told by the vice president of the federation to wear a T-shirt bearing a picture of Soleimani. In the interview, Assadollahzadeh holds up the shirt he said he was given and told to wear by the federation vice president and the team manager.

"I refused to wear the shirt and I was confronted with threats," Assadollahzadeh said, adding that he was told: ''If you refuse to wear the shirt, upon your return to Iran, both you and your family will face problems. And you will be treated like someone who is against the regime and someone who has refused to work with us. Your life may also be in danger."

Assadollahzadeh said that he was told, "You will either wear the T-shirt on the stage, so that we can take pictures and videos and send them to Iran, or we will definitely take legal action against you upon your return to Iran."

CNN reported that in 2018, an Iranian water polo player said he was arrested and flogged after he refused to meet with Khamenei. An Iranian kickboxer fled his team hotel ahead of the world championship final in October in Italy amid pressure to return to his homeland after he made a video with the Israeli team.

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An Iranian powerlifter is seeking asylum in Norway after defecting in November to avoid jail, torture and possibly execution upon his return to his home country over his refusal to make a dedication to Qasem Soleimani.
iran, powerlifter, amir assadollahzadeh, soleimani
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2022-18-04
Tuesday, 04 January 2022 06:18 PM
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