Manitoba’s Iranian community protests execution of athlete allegedly tortured into false murder confession

By | September 18, 2020

Winnipeg’s Iranian community took to the steps of the Manitoba legislature Friday to protest the execution of a wrestler by their home country’s regime. 

Navid Afkari was executed last week for allegedly stabbing a water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz. 

Navid Afkari was arrested in 2018 after participating in an anti-government protest in his home country. Afkari, his family and lawyer claim he was tortured while incarcerated into confessing to a murder he did not commit. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

He was arrested in 2018 for participating in a peaceful anti-government protest. Afkari, his family and lawyer claim he was tortured while incarcerated into confessing to a murder he did not commit.

About two dozen people showed up to protest Afkari’s execution, wearing face masks and holding up photos of the wrestler. They also protested the executions and arrests of other activists in Iran, creating a drawing of a tree to symbolize executions that are still happening. 

Organizers said they are planning to send it to Afkari’s family in Iran.

The drawing of a tree symbolizes executions in Iran that are still happening, demonstrators said. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

By protesting in Canada, Arian Pour said he hopes Canadians can draw attention to the injustice and put pressure on the Iranian government. 

“We would like them [Canadians] to talk about this more, not only officials but people because that will communicate the message that we’re hoping to convey,” he said. 

“And that is that Iranians deserve more.”

A social media campaign portrayed Afkari and his brothers as victims targeted because they participated in protests against Iran’s Shia theocracy in 2018. Authorities accused Afkari of stabbing a water supply company employee amid the unrest. 1:20

Saeideh Mirzaei, who has lived in Canada since 2016, said she was at the protest to show Afkari’s family solidarity. 

“We are here to mourn for him and to show him and also his family that we are all Navids, and his way of seeking a peaceful life and prosperous life is going on,” she said. 

Saeideh Mirzaei said she was there to show solidarity with Navid Afkari’s family and protest the actions of the Iranian government. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC )

She said if Iran can execute an international athlete, then they shouldn’t be allowed to participate in international sports. 

Athletes in Canada expressed on social media a call for a stay of execution ahead of Afkari’s death, including Canadian Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe and Canadian Olympic weightlifting champion Christine Girard.

The UFC’s Dana White also took to Twitter to call for a stay of execution before Afkari’s death.

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