Iran's powerlifting silver medalist in Asia, Amir Mohammad Shahnavazi says, he has decided not to return to his country and will stay in France in protest to corruption.
In a video published on Shahnavazi's Instagram account, he has argued that since several officials of the Islamic Republic are "incompetent" and "thieves", "eating away Iran, like leprosy," he has decided not to return to his country.
Shahnavazi won the Asian silver medal for press lift in 83kg class junior category last year in the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking exclusively to Radio Farda, the young powerlifter from the province of Sistan&Baluchestan, southeast Iran, said that he had never received a reward and personally paid all the expenses for participating in international powerlifting events.
"I left Iran via Turkey, and after 27 days of hardship, illegally arrived in France, where I have decided to seek asylum, and stay," Shahnavazi told Radio Farda.
Referring to powerlifting events, including Iran's national championship, Shahnavazi says that while having money just enough to return to (my city) Zahedan, I was forced to sleep in the freezing streets of the cities where the powerlifting championships was held.
The Islamic Republic Weightlifting Federation, which powerlifting is a subdivision of, Shahnavazi laments, did not provide a dormitory for any of the powerlifters.
A veteran powerlifting champion, and the former coach of Iran's national team, Majid Talkhaei, recently told Iran powerlifting website that the fate of his favorite sport is similar to Iran’s economy that has fallen victim to a number of illiterate people.
Meanwhile, Iranian official news agency, IRNA, reported in 2017 that Shahnavazi won the Gold medal in the games hosted by the capital city, Tehran, and selected as the "champion of the champions" to attend powerlifting world championship in Germany.
Another reason that has forced Shahnavazi, from the Baluch ethnic group in Iran to Iran is the widespread ethnic discrimination dominating the country.
"Even for wearing your Baluchi ethnic garment, you might confront problems," Shahnavazi told Radio Farda, adding, "Such discrimination is not limited to me. A member of Iranian national boxing team, Mobin Kahrazeh also suffered from it, before seeking refuge in Austria."
Since the Islamic Republic authorities are “thieves and incompetent”, Shahnavazi maintains, "Had I stayed in Iran, I would have ended up like many other Iranian athletes who are presently struggling with drug addiction and poverty."
In the meantime, Shahnavazi insists that he has never been involved in political activities, noting, "I still love my country, and I used to participate in the national games with the same love. I just left my country of birth to avoid my own destruction."