The Washington Post

The day the American flag was shown unmolested in Iran

Iranian state media captured President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad posing with the Iranian, and behind them the American, national wrestling teams. (Mehr News)

TEHRAN — After their national team's resounding victory over the U.S. team Thursday in the Wrestling World Cup held in Tehran, Iranians throughout the country erupted in celebration.

Although several of the matches between American and Iranians wrestlers were quite tense, the spirit of sportsmanship was on full display throughout the event. The theme of the week, rather than politics, was both nations’ shared goal of keeping wrestling in the Olympic games.

The U.S. team took third place in the tournament, and Iran ultimately prevailed over Russia in the freestyle competition to win gold.

Once it become clear that Iran had secured its victory, by taking a fourth win in the best-of-seven format, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and an entourage appeared in the stadium.

After congratulations and presenting the medals to his nation’s team (along with approximately $8,000 in prize money to each wrestler), he made his way to the U.S. squad to congratulate its members and pose with them for photos, one of them captured by the state-run Mehr News.

Some Iranians, excited and proud about the win, used the moment as an opportunity to make light of the difficulties their country faces.

Mohsen, a 26 year old office worker, flexed his bicep and joked, “You think if you sanction us we’ll lose? Like they say: Sanctions have no effect on us!”

The event represented a very rare occasion that the American flag could be seen on public display, unmolested, in Iran.

Jason Rezaian served as The Post's correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016. He spent 545 days unjustly imprisoned by Iranian authorities until his release in January 2016.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.