Women in Iran Chant 'Navid Is a Hero' at Gravesite of Executed Wrestler

Amid global condemnation of Iran over the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari, dramatic footage has been shared on social media of women lamenting his death at his gravesite and hailing him as a "hero."

Afkari, 27, had been sentenced to death for killing an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps member during Iran's August 2018 protests. His case had sparked an international campaign pushing for his release, portraying him and his brothers, who remain in prison, as victims targeted because they took part in anti-regime demonstrations.

Afkari said he had been tortured into making a confession. In a poignant voice recording of him before his death, Afkari said: "If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed."

The sporting union the World Players Association was among those who called for a halt to the execution. President Donald Trump also made an appeal for his life to be spared, tweeting that his "sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets."

Afkari was hung in the southern city of Shiraz last Saturday, according to state media. Amnesty International described his fate, in which he was tortured and denied access to a lawyer, as a "horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action."

"Leaked voice recordings of him in court expose how his pleas for judges to investigate his torture complaints and bring another detainee who had witnessed his torture to testify were unlawfully and cruelly ignored," said Amnesty's deputy regional director Diana Eltahawy.

His death has moved many within the Islamic Republic as well. A video shared on Twitter shows a group of women surrounding his grave and chanting. The New York Times journalist Farnaz Fassihi shared the footage, tweeting: "Grieving mothers of Iran whose children have been killed gather at the grave of Navid Afkari and chant 'Navid is a hero.'"

Meanwhile, an attorney involved in the case and who represented other people arrested during the 2018 protests, said the case was "far from being compatible with the Islamic Republic's penal code and guidelines."

"First of all, the letter published by the Fars judiciary as a piece of evidence has no legal value. It is written on a piece of paper without any official letterhead or marks on it. The signatories to the letter are also unrelated to Afkari's case," Babak Paknia, told Radio Farda, according to Radio Free Europe.

"The Afkari family has the right to file a lawsuit against the judge responsible for the verdict's execution and demanding his evidence concerning the case," he said.

Iranian protest
Protesters demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy in London on September 12, 2020 against the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. His case has sparked global outrage. JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images
Women in Iran Chant 'Navid Is a Hero' at Gravesite of Executed Wrestler | World