The Iranian weightlifting team, which participated in the World Youth Weightlifting Championships in Greece with only two representatives, has now returned to Iran with only one athlete.
Yekta Jamali, known as the first medalist in the history of Iranian women’s weightlifting, did not return to Iran after the end of weightlifting competitions in Greece.
Iranian media reported the sudden disappearance of 17-year-old athlete Yekta Jamali in Greece. A few days after winning another silver medal at the World Junior Weightlifting Championships, Jamali reportedly did not join the team returning to Iran and her whereabouts remain unknown. It is assumed that she has defected and will be seeking asylum in one of the European countries.
Zahra Pouramin, vice president of the Iranian Women’s Weightlifting Federation, confirmed the situation to the IRNA news agency today. “I do not know what happened, but Ali Morandi, the president of the federation, is in Greece to be able to bring Yekta Jamali back to Iran. “Of course, the Jamali family has been consulted on this issue.”
The Mehr news agency reported that the Iranian delegation had left Heraklion that afternoon, but Jamali “left the group base without informing anyone” and did not reappear to accompany her group members. Concerns remain about her safety, and many expect that, like dozens before her, she has seized the opportunity to leave Iran.
Last year, Yekta Jamali won the first world medal in the history of Iranian women’s weightlifting at the World Junior Championships in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, winning the silver in the 87 kg category. Shortly afterward she won bronze at the World Championships in Tashkent.
Women’s weightlifting was banned in Iran after the Khomeinist Revolution and the ban was lifted only in 2018 and only after the International Weightlifting Federation said it would ban Iranian men from competing if women were not allowed to do the same.
At least 20 athletes from different disciplines made headlines when they emigrated for the past three years for political reasons (most either because of forced hijab or because Tehran banned them from fighting against Israelis).