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Terror linked Iran karate team visa denied, will not compete in World Games in Alabama

The Iranian national karate team was denied a visa to enter the U.S. for The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama Fox News Digital can reveal.  

Iran’s karate team has direct links to the terrorist organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC,) and opponents of the regime called for an immediate ban. 

After Fox News Digital sent queries to the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security Sunday, an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported on Tuesday that the American government denied visas to the karate team. 

A State Department spokesperson said Tuesday that its response has not changed from when first asked by Fox News Digital on Sunday about the karate team and if the U.S. planned to grant visas to the Iranian athletes. The spokesperson noted that “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.” 


Critics claim the martial arts team is packed with members and supporters of the Iranian regime’s terrorist organizations involved in the murder of over 600 American military personnel in the Middle East. 

Those voicing concern include a Gold Star family member who lost her brother to an IRGC supported attack, and regime dissidents urged the Biden administration ahead of the announcement today to ban the team from entering the country.  

Beverly Wolfer, sister of Major Stuart Adam Wolfer, who was killed in Iraq on April 6, 2008 by an Iranian-backed terror cell, told Fox News Digital: “Allowing Iranian sports teams to compete in the U.S. legitimizes a terrorist regime by flying its flag and playing its anthem on American soil. Ignoring their chants of ‘Death to America,’ signing a nuclear deal which immunizes the IRGC for damages stemming from their terrorist acts, and enabling their athletes to compete on U.S. soil are slaps in the face to America’s Gold Star Families.” 

Dina Gielchinsky, an attorney at Osen LLC that represents Wolfer and families of hundreds of American service members killed or injured at the behest of Iran’s IRGC, told Fox News Digital, “The Iranian regime has been responsible for killing and maiming thousands of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades, and it hasn’t changed.”

She continued, “Allowing its sports teams to visit the U.S. just serves to legitimize the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and signal to them and to the world that America is fundamentally unserious about terrorism.” 

Sardar Pashaei, the Iranian-American former head coach of Iran’s national Greco-Roman wrestling team, first identified the team members’ links with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC.)  

 “We believe that athletes who are part of the Islamic Republic’s system of repression and propaganda should not set foot on American soil. In Iran, they are saying, ‘Death to America and Israel,’ but at the same time they are applying for American visas,” he told Fox News Digital.  


Pashaei and other elite Iranian athletes urged the U.S. government to act swiftly to ban the entry of the karate team.  

The captain of the national karate team,  Zabihullah Poursheib, told ISNA  “America did not issue visas to travel to this country for various teams, including wrestling, which shows that the Americans involve non-sports and political issues in sports and seek revenge.” 

Open source articles, according to Iranian dissident, Pashaei, reveal that Seyyed Hassan Tabatabaei, the head of the Karate Federation, said Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the late head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, was the “shining sun of karate.” 

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran. Iraqi TV and three Iraqi officials said Friday that Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has been killed in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

According to Karate News, an Iran outlet, Tabatabaei praised the performance of the IRGC and the Basij, declaring, “I always consider myself a member of the Basij, and I hope that there will be more interaction by the [Karate] Federation and the Basij with athletes than in the past.”  

The Basij paramilitary volunteer militia is used by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to repress dissent and any protests against the theocratic state.  


Pashaei, who manages the United for Navid campaign, which seeks justice regarding the execution of champion wrestler Navid Afkari in 2020, said, “Members of this [karate] team include supporters of the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij [IRGC militia], and Iranian security forces. Among them, Seyed Hassan Tabatabaei, who has been introduced as the president of the [Iranian] Karate Federation, is one of the official employees of the security department, which is under the supervision of the Revolutionary Guards and is directly assigned by them. Shahram Heravi, who has been introduced as the head coach of the team, is also an official employee of the security department.”  

Navid Afkari was executed by the Iranian regime in 2020. His death sentence caused international an international uproar.  (Photo by Sayed Najafizada/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Christopher Holton, director of the State Outreach Center for Security Policy, told Fox News Digital, “It almost goes without saying that members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should not be granted entry into the United States.  

“First and foremost, the IRGC has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department. Among other activities, the IRGC is the wing of the Iranian jihad apparatus tasked with supporting, supplying and training other jihadist terror organizations around the world,” he said.   

Holton said the threat of Iranian terrorism is ever-present because the regime seeks to retaliate against the U.S. for killing the US- and EU-designated terrorist. “Since the U.S. justifiably took out IRGC General Qassam Soleimani in an airstrike during the Trump administration, the IRGC and Iranian leaders have issued repeated threats of revenge,” he said. 


Then-President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020.  

Holton said, “The IRGC is especially a threat to American security in that they were active during the U.S involvement in Iraq in supplying jihadists with Explosively Formed Penetrator [EFP] improvised explosive devices that killed and wounded hundreds of U.S. military forces.”  

Pashaei said the “IRGC and the Basij are known international terrorist organizations, and the presence of their members, including Seyyed Hassan Tabatabaei and Shahram Heravi, pose a serious security threat to American citizens.” He urged the Department of Homeland Security to bar the entry of the karate team. 

In January and February, Fox News Digital reported on Alireza Dabir, the head of the Iran Wrestling Federation, who praised Soleimani and urged the violent destruction of America. After the Fox News reports, the U.S. denied visas to Dabir and others to enter the U.S. for a dual meet with the American national wrestling team in Arlington, Texas. Dabir then canceled the meet.   

Sajad Ganjzadeh (L) of Team Iran gets injured as he competes against his Saudi opponent in last year's Olympic Games in Japan. According to reports, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the late head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, was described as being very close to the karate team.

Heravi, the head coach of Iran’s national karate team, said, “The enemies [the West] thought that they would breathe a sigh of relief with the assassination of General Soleimani, but Soleimani was not an [isolated] individual, and he founded the Soleimani school in Iran with his ideology, which cannot be destroyed.”  

The United States government—under both Democratic and Republican administrations—has designated Iran’s clerical regime the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism. 

Fox News Digital sent press queries to the Department of Homeland Security, Iran’s mission to the United Nations, and to the organizers of The World Games. 

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