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Yemeni freestyle wrestler withdraws from France contests to avoid facing Israeli rival

In a show of strong solidarity with the Palestinian nation and outright rejection of normalization with the Tel Aviv regime, Yemeni freestyle wrestler Ebrahim al-Shabami has pulled out of the 2023 Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane in France to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

Shabami was set to participate in the 61-kilogram division of the international tournament at Salle Leyrit in the southeastern French port city of Nice. He, however, withdrew from the competitions as soon as he found out he was scheduled to take on Israeli rival Daniel Popov.


The 2023 Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane kicked off on January 20, and wrapped up on January 22.


The development comes as athletes from Muslim countries have repeatedly refused to compete against Israeli opponents at major international events to protest Israel’s crimes and occupation of Palestinian land.


Last May, a Kuwaiti wheelchair fencer withdrew from the second International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Cup of 2022 in Thailand over a draw that set her on course for a match-up against an Israeli opponent.


“Kuwaiti player Kholoud al-Mutairi pulled out of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Cup in Thailand in order not to compete against a contestant from the Zionist entity,” the Kuwait Paralympic Committee wrote in a post published on its Twitter page at the time.


Earlier that month, Kuwaiti chess player Bader al-Hajri snubbed an Israeli opponent at Spain’s Sunway International Chess Championship, in an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people and a blow to the occupying Tel Aviv regime’s status in the world.


The Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) master, who had secured first place at the 2015 San Sebastian chess tournament in Spain, withdrew on May 3 from the competitions to refuse to face an Israeli competitor.


On social media, Arab activists lauded al-Hajri as a champion of “rejecting Arab countries’ normalization” with the Israeli regime by refusing to face “an Israeli settler.”


A month earlier, Kuwaiti fencer Mohamed al-Fadli had withdrawn from the World Fencing Championships held in the UAE for the same reason.


Fadli also withdrew from an international tournament in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, in September 2019, after the draw placed him in a group competing with an Israeli player.


In July 2021, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the 2020 Summer Olympics in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo, after the draw set him on course for a possible showdown against an Israeli opponent.


Nourine took the measure after he was drawn earlier in the day to face Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul in the second round of the under-73kg men’s judo competition, if he were to advance past his first fight.


During the same month, Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool also withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, becoming the second athlete to pull out of the international multi-sport event to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.


The Sudanese athlete made the decision to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics following a similar measure by Nourine and after the draw set him on course for a possible showdown against Butbul in the second round of the under-73kg men’s judo competition.


Lebanon's Abdullah Miniato also withdrew from the international mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in Sophia, Bulgaria to avoid a match against an Israeli opponent, following the lead of two African athletes who refused to fight their Israeli rivals at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.


The young Lebanese fighter and his coach, Muhammad al-Gharbi, announced the withdrawal from the sports event after the draw placed Miniato against an Israeli athlete.