By Kayhan Life Staff
Even the staunchest supporters of the Islamic Republic are criticizing the Iranian government for failing to control the increasingly high cost of living and the economic hardship experienced by most of the country’s population.
On Jan. 2, Amir Aliakbari, an Iranian heavyweight champion in mixed martial arts (MMA) and a supporter of the Iranian regime, posted a photograph of the jailed trade unionist Esmail Bakhshi on his Instagram page and wrote: “[A U.S.] dollar is 40,000 tomans. A [Bahar Azadi gold] coin [8.13 gram and 900 purity (24 Karats)] is 20 [million] tomans [$500.] Who handles this sick economy? Who will explain the conditions to the impoverished? The situation is not caused by sanctions but by domestic corruption. You all know this, but do nothing about it.”
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Esmail Bakhshi, the 39-year-old founder of the Independent Workers Union of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Argo Industrial Company in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, has been in prison since January 2019.
Aliakbari, who is signed with the One Championship of MMA, also known as cage fighting, competed in the Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB), a Russian mixed martial arts event, and the Japanese Rizin Fighting Federation. He is also a former gold medalist and world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling.
The Instagram post by Aliakbari, criticizing the Islamic Republic and its economic policy, is significant, given that the heavyweight champion was reportedly a devotee of the late Lieutenant General Ghasem Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF), who died in a U.S. drone strike on Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020.
The Islamic Republic had previously banned cage fighting in the country. Aliakbari and his team persuaded the government to legalize the sport because it reportedly served as a conduit for recruiting delinquents to fight in “the holy shrine defenders” units in Syria.
The IRGC has reportedly used cage fighting to attract athletes in various fields to join its units of “holy shrine defenders.” Some of those athletes competing on the international stage have become loudspeakers for the Islamic Republic.
The boastful theatrics of Aliakbari and another MMA fighter, Siamak Khorrami, during international “cage fights,” particularly against their American opponents, served as massive propaganda for the Islamic Republic.
The two fighters would reportedly enter the arena, wearing headbands with the words “Ya Heidar” and “Ya Hossein” printed on them and singing songs praising the IRGC’s role in Syria.
Some pro-regime athletes have reportedly played a crucial part in encouraging the Basij forces (volunteer militias) to crush the ongoing national protest sparked by the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died while in the custody of the morality police on Sept. 16 in Tehran.