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Iran's Parliament Removes Anti-Israeli Sports Motion From A Bill

Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, member of Iranian parliament. Undated. FILE PHOTO

The spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iran’s parliament (Majles) says the commission has removed a controversial parliamentary motion that would ban Iranian athletes from competing with their Israeli counterparts.

Lawmakers removed the motion after the Islamic Republic Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs urged members of the commission to drop the motion, Hossein Naqavi said on Sunday, May 17.

Earlier on May 12, the commission had proposed a "double urgency" motion that, if passed, would officially ban Iranian athletes from competing against their Israeli counterparts. The motion had pushed the country to the verge of becoming an outcast from international sports events.

Since its establishment the Islamic Republic has refused to recognize Israel and based on an unwritten law has prohibited Iranian athletes to compete with Israelis at international sporting events.

The motion emphasized that "any competition or sporting event, whether formal or preparatory," between Iranian athletes and sports teams with Israeli opponents is prohibited.

The inclusion of the double-urgency motion in a larger bill triggered a series of criticisms, warning that Iranian athletes would become "pariahs" in the international sports.

A member of Majles, Qassem Mirzaeiniko, lambasted his colleagues' proposal, asserting sarcastically, "Probably, they are after closing down Iran's sports".

The Deputy head of the Islamic Republic's official news agency's (IRNA) for Sports Affairs, Pedram Alavandi, also tweeted that the motion would "pave the way for the suspension of all Iranian sports and a ban from the Tokyo Olympics".

Meanwhile, an ultraconservative member of the Iranian parliamentary sports faction, Ebrahim Azizi, said in a controversial statement that there was nothing wrong with suspending Iranian sports altogether, given that in the Islamic Republic "religious principles" are preferred to "sports issues".

However, the heated debate is still going on at a time that the International Judo Federation (IJF) has already suspended Iran's activities at all international events.

IJF decision was made last October after it was convinced beyond doubt that the Islamic Republic authorities had frequently forced Iranian judokas to refrain from confronting Israeli athletes.

Officials at Iran's Ministry of Sports have been working hard over the past few months to lift the suspension, but the World Judo Federation has said the suspension will be lifted if a friendly match between the national judo teams of Iran and Israel is held.