Iran allows U.S. wrestling team to compete in tournament

Iran has decided to allow the United States to compete in a wrestling tournament inside its borders, reversing a decision to deny entry visas, according to the foreign minister.

Komeil Nemat Ghasemi of Iran poses with his silver medal on the podium of the men's Freestyle 125kg competition of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 20. Iran plays host to the 2017 Freestyle World Cup on Feb. 16 and 17. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA
Komeil Nemat Ghasemi of Iran poses with his silver medal on the podium of the men’s Freestyle 125kg competition of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 20. Iran plays host to the 2017 Freestyle World Cup on Feb. 16 and 17. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made the decision Sunday after a U.S. federal judge blocked President Donald Trump‘s immigration executive order Friday. The International Wrestling Federation and the Iranian Wrestling Federation appealed the initial denial on behalf of the American wrestlers.

Zarif tweeted: “Following the court ruling suspending #MuslimBan & the requests from Iranian Wrestling Federation & FILA, US Wrestlers’ visa will be granted.”

Iran had originally denied all visas as a “reciprocal measure” after Trump’s order banning entry of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, to the United States.

But Zarif had said on Twitter, “Unlike the U.S., our decision is not retroactive. All with valid Iranian visa will be gladly welcomed.”

United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic had been “working to find a solution.”

“As we’ve seen over the years, wrestling is a sport that unites people and nations,” Lalovic said in a statement. “United World Wrestling hosts a full calendar of events every season and we’re certain to see American and Iranian wrestlers on the same mat again in the very near future.”

The Freestyle World Cup on Feb. 16 and 17 draws some of the world’s best wrestlers.

Iran has won the event five years in a row; it last hosted the competition in 2013.

By Allen Cone