Freedom is not free. My loved ones have fought for it in uniform as soldiers in three different armies.
Now I’m asking the world to wake up and fight to save an innocent life. This is not a political post. This is the shared responsibility of all people to fight injustice.
Navid Afkar is. an Iranian wrestling champion who has been sentenced to immoral torture of 74 lashes and then death. His brothers Vahid and Habib are facing decades in prison if they survive the same torture of 74 lashes.
He has been denied a fair trial for speaking out against his government’s terrible human rights policies. This is state sanctioned murder. Where are human rights organizations and the United Nations? Where is the outcry?
Every act Israel does is scrutinized and debated and criticized by the world. I support legitimate criticism. I just think that criticism has to be equal and fair. If the same governments who criticize Israel won’t offer even stronger language to save Navid, Vahid, and Habib, that is deeply flawed and immoral.
There is no justice in convicting a man in a biased court, flogging, and then executing him for the simple crime of speaking truth to power.
On the surface, Navid and I come from enemy countries, and would likely never be able to meet together. As fellow martial artists, we belong to the same world that practices fairness, honor, courage, humility, and hard work. We are all partners on the mat, despite our differences in religion, ethnicity, and nationality. That’s the greatness of martial arts.
As I write this, I see Navid is a few years younger than me. As he faces death, I look at my own life and think of all the small things that are now unimaginable luxuries to Navid, like seeing a sunset and breathing fresh air, or walking through a park to see the leaves begin to change colors.
I spoke to my mother and actually understood the preciousness of hearing her voice and knowing I would see her again soon.
I think about the greatest gift I have, a future.
I’m asking everyone who reads this to write in and. demand that Navid, Vahid, and Habib also have a future. My wish for them is a long line where they can train and compete and love and speak out and be safe and live. I want them to see sunsets and breathe fresh air, and next year, walk through a park to see spring. I’m asking for them to have love and friendship and mat time and dreams.
I am not just calling on human rights organizations. I’m calling on every martial organization to speak up as well. We owe it to ourselves as a community to stand up for our brother and to defend him and his family. We train to be strong and courageous. Now is the time to use it.
I wrote this yesterday on the 48th anniversary of the Munich Olympic massacre, where innocent athletes were tortured and murdered by terrorists. We can’t change the past. We can only honor their memories by speaking out so another athlete and his family are not tortured and murdered by state terrorists.
I’ve listed the contact information for human rights organizations and news organizations here. Please write to them and ask them to support the global initiative to save their lives and give them a future.
It’s a simple message.
“Please stand up for the rights of Navid, Habib and Vahid Askari, and support this global initiative,”
As Israeli champion Sagi Muki said, when he alerted the martial arts world to this, we are all Navid