Baha'i disqualified from Judo for his religion!

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The Persian page of Baha’i World News Service (BWNS) reported the following news on June 25, 2009. Translation by Iran Press Watch:
After repeated appeals to the chair of the Judo Federation in Iran, on June 15, 2009, Mr. Khashayar Zare’i, a 16 year old Baha’i, was given permission to participate in qualifying contests for selection of Iran’s National Judo Team in the youth category. This news was published on the internet site Iran University Journalists.

Despite the fact that Mr. Zare’i was one of the 21 winners in these contests, the Judo Commission of the province of Fars disqualified him from membership in the national team on the grounds that he was a Baha’i. The Federation officials stated, “In accordance with instructions issued by the Protection Office of the Physical Education Organization, Khashayar has been barred from participation in future competitions.”

Last year, Mr. Zare’i was also prevented from participating in youth competitions at the Asian games.

Further details are available from the Goftman site, based on unidentified sources, though presumably assembled from information directly received from the Baha’is of Iran:

Khashayar Zare’i is a sixteen year old Baha’i youth who has been barred from membership in Iran’s National Youth Judo Team. He is, however, the judo champion of Iranian youth and for schools across the nation.

Last year, he was selected to represent Iran at the Asian youth judo tournament in Yemen, but the Iranian Judo Federation declared that Zare’i could not participate nor be a member of the national team because he was a Baha’i. This was later confirmed by the coaching staff of the national team, the Judo Commission of the province of Fars, and the Protection Office of the Physical Education Organization. The Protection Office stated that their pronouncement was in conformity with existing laws, but did not specify which law prohibited Baha’is from participating in sports competitions.

The recent youth judo trials were held on June 15, 2009, and the Federation once again perpetrated the same discrimination. That is, at first the Judo Commission of Fars province refused to allow Mr. Zare’i credentials in order to enter the tournament. After considerable follow up, the chair of the Iranian Judo Federation, Mr. Amini, intervened and declared that no legal grounds existed for prohibiting Zare’i’s participation.

On the trial day, Zare’i participated in contests and won his matches. Once again, however, the Federation pronounced that since Zare’i was a Baha’i, he could not be a member of the national team nor could he represent Iran at the world championship tournament in Armenia. The Federation authorities pointed out that the orders had come from the Protection Office of the Physical Education Organization and that the Federation had to comply.

The by-laws of the International Judo Federation and other national Federations indicate that they are non-governmental entities and must operate independently of politics and any form of discrimination. It has been emphasized in these by-laws that one of the duties of these Federations and their auxiliary branches is to safeguard against any national, religious, ethnic or racial discrimination. It should be noted that the present religious discrimination in the Judo Federation not only includes athletic participation, but also bars Baha’is from being referees or coaches – discrimination which is against the very spirit of sportsmanship.

This issue clearly indicates that sports in Iran have become politicized – an situation which is at variance with the by-laws of the International Olympics Committee as well as Iran’s own Constitution. This results in a flawed system, as the athletes’ abilities do not determine their success.

[Original sources: http://news.persian-bahai44.org/2009062501 and http://www.goftman-iran3.info/content/view/1272/23/. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]
 
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