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Iranian Wrestler Released From Detention Seeks Asylum In Canada

International wrestling medalist Navid Zanganeh has left Iran, seeking asylum in Canada. FILE photo

A member of Iran's Under 23 Wrestling national team, detained for a few days during mid-November anti-regime protests, has emigrated to Canada and will represent his new residence in future championships.

The 23-year-old Bronz-medalist in 74 kg category in the 2018 World U23 Wrestling Championship in Bucharest, Romania, has sought asylum in Canada, state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) confirmed on Thursday, January 2.

Navid Zanganeh left Iran twenty days ago and soon will represent Canada in a wrestling tournament. The young wrestler has not yet commented on the news.

On November 26, a week after the Special Units forces supported by the members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps brutally suppressed anti-establishment protests in 28 out of 31 provinces of Iran; reports disclosed that the Islamic Republic intelligence agents had detained Zanganeh.

The exact date of Zanganeh's detention is not clear, but reports say that he was shot by a pellet and taken to a hospital, where he was arrested and kept for a few days.

Immediately after his release, Zanganeh's club, Atrak Khorasan, unilaterally canceled its contract with him and deprived him of competing in the World Cup Club championships.

During mid-November demonstrations triggered by an overnight three-fold increase in gasoline prices, a member of the women’s wrestling national team, Massoumeh Soleimani, was also detained in the city of Khorramabad, western Iran. She was released after nearly a month behind bars.

The trend for Iranian athletes seeking asylum has gained momentum in recent months.

Alireza Firouzja, 16, a top-rated chess player from Iran and the world's number two ranked junior player, decided in December not to return to Iran after competing with an Israeli counterpart.

Days later, he won the silver medal at the World Rapid & Blitz chess championship in Moscow after competing under the global chess body FIDE's flag.

"Congratulations to Alireza Firouzja on a fantastic silver medal. And shame on all those who seek to thwart his career," FIDE vice president Nigel Short said on Twitter on December 28.

Reacting to two Iranian chess players who disregarded a government red line and competed with Israeli counterparts, the Islamic Republic authorities banned Iran's national chess team from competing in the championship in Moscow.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and Iranian sports teams have employed a policy of not competing against Israelis for the past several decades.

From now on, Firouzja will represent France in World Chess tournaments.

In October, Iran was banned from international judo competitions indefinitely over the country's refusal to face Israeli competitors. The decision by the International Judo Federation (IJF) came after Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei said the authorities pressured him to drop out of bouts to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

Gold-medalist Mollaei has accepted Mongolian citizenship.