Wednesday, June 7th | 18 Sivan 5783

May 22, 2023 11:11 am

Fencers From Iraq, Kuwait Withdraw From International Competition to Avoid Facing Israeli Opponents


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Muslims attend Friday prayers outside the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Umit Bektas.

Athletes from the national fencing teams of Kuwait and Iraq pulled out of the 2023 International Fencing Federation (FIE) Men’s Epee World Cup that concluded in Turkey on Sunday to avoid facing competitors from Israel, according to reports.

Kuwaiti fencer Abdulaziz Alshatti, 32, withdrew from the competition in Istanbul when he found out he was scheduled to go head-to-head against a competitor from Israel, according to the Tasnim News Agency. Alshatti wrote in an Arab-language Instagram post, “I withdrew from the tournament because of the presence of a representative from the Zionist entity in the same group. My trust in God is great, and goodness is coming with His permission. His generosity is not delayed, but rather comes at the right time.”

Alshatti also pulled his participation in the 2018 World Fencing Championship when a draw showed that he would be matched up with an Israeli opponent. Other Kuwaiti athletes have done the same in the past and in May 2021, Kuwait’s National Assembly unanimously approved bills that outlaw any efforts to normalize relations with Israel, Tasnim reported.

The Iraqi national fencing team said in a released statement that it was withdrawing from the FIE World Cup also to evade being paired up with members of the Israeli team.

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“The Iraqi national team withdrew from the individual races in the World Fencing Championship, which is taking place in Istanbul and is a qualifier for the Paris Olympics, after the lottery set it against the team of the occupying Israeli entity,” the Iraqi Fencing Federation said in a Facebook post on Friday, Press TV reported. “The decision to withdraw came in compliance with the law criminalizing normalization [of relations with Israel as] approved by the Iraqi parliament, in rejection of the occupying entity and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause,” the post added. A legislation passed by the Iraqi parliament in May 2022 bans any normalization with Israel.

The Men’s Epee World Cup finished on Sunday with Kazakhstan taking home the gold medal in the team portion of the competition while Alexandre Bardenet from France won gold in the individuals.

Many athletes competing in various sports who hail from Arab and Muslim-majority countries have repeatedly in recent years taken themselves out of competitions to avoid facing Israeli opponents. Those countries include Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan, Iran, Algeria, Sudan and others.

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