Paris 2024 Olympics: exploited worker in Turkey, survivor of drowning while crossing the Mediterranean, cut off from his family for ten years, he will compete in the Games

Paris 2024 Olympics: exploited worker in Turkey, survivor of drowning while crossing the Mediterranean, cut off from his family for ten years, he will compete in the Games


Refugee in France, the wrestler Jamal Valizadeh bears witness to a painful destiny where he had to fight to survive and endure all the humiliations. Until the fabulous climax of the Olympics, the apotheosis of his life.

Sixteen hours of barely paid daily work in Turkey, part of the Mediterranean crossed by swimming, and ten years after this suffering, the Paris Olympic Games: for refugee wrestler Jamal Valizadeh , a dream long put aside will come true in July.

In a university preparation center in Saarbrücken (Germany), very close to the French border, the athlete with the thin beard and dark glasses cannot hide his smile. His dream of the Games, which he had long had to give up after fleeing his country, will finally come true, after his qualification for the Greco-Roman wrestling events in the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR).< /p>

He sees his loved ones again this year for the first time in ten years

At 33, the man who then was a student and Greco-Roman wrestling champion had to leave his country, Iran, recognizes that he did not have a similar journey to "other athletes". Although he does not wish to dwell on the reasons for his departure from Iran, Jamal Valizadeh looks back on his difficult journey to France, deprived of contact with his loved ones, who ;he only saw each other again this year, after ten years.

They were abusive, didn't respect me, spoke badly. "For me it’was really hard

Prudishly, he recalls having "suffered enormously". He quickly arrived in Türkiye. "I worked 16 hours a day, only to have after six months 1 000 dollars. (The employers) gave me 300 dollars a month, and I had to buy food too at the same time..

And since he had no papers, "they abused me, didn't respect me, spoke badly". "For me it’was really hard", but he needed the money to continue his journey.

It crosses the Mediterranean with waves of two meters, the boat sinks…

In the middle of winter, when he crosses the Mediterranean on a makeshift boat, "with two-meter waves", the boat begins to sink, he is then one of those who abandon it, giving priority to the women and children, and swims to the coast, hundreds of meters away.

He arrived in France in 2016 and first went to Calais, "not to cross" but because he was told that "there were lots of people like me, it would be easier to get the papers".

Jamal Valizadeh is then tested. He fought, without money, "just to save me, to stay alive", he said, moved. Upon his arrival in France, where he requested political refugee status, obtained a few months later, Jamal Valizadeh knew one thing: he wanted to continue the struggle, to rediscover the secret hope of one day be able to compete internationally.

Wrestling, a family affair

Wrestling is a family affair: as a teenager, he was the only boy in the family, among his 34 other cousins, to practice gymnastics and handball, but not the struggle. Although he wrestled every evening with them, it was only later that he attempted training…hell. and impressed the coach by "defeating the regional champion".

Jamal Valizadeh won the title of champion of Iran in the less than 55 kilos category three years in a row, until 2013. But by fleeing this country where he was threatened, &quot ;I have lost hope of fighting internationally", he assures.

However, after passing through Paris, Calais, Le Mans, Angers, where he obtained the status of political refugee, Jamal Valizadeh found himself, in Moselle, near Metz, in the commune from Ogy-Montoy-Flanville, the hope that he had gradually lost. "The mayor helps me a lot", he emphasizes, the councilor himself being involved in the community of the struggle.

All of the athlete's life choices have been guided by this discipline. It was also in the wrestling rooms, by talking to partners, that he learned to speak French. "I haven’t spent a single hour in French class", he smiles.

Computer science graduate

However, he continued his studies in Metz, "which filled (his) plate" in the absence of other financial support. He also had to, in addition to his minimum 24 hours of weekly training and his courses to validate his Master 1 in IT at the University of Lorraine, work in a supermarket to earn some extra money. money aside.

The medal absolutely

Before going to the Games, Jamal Valizadeh validated his diploma. Now the goal is to "not just be a tourist at the Olympics" but &quot ;to have a medal". In Sarreguemines (Moselle) or Sarrebruck, where he trains, the Iranian is supported by coaches and partners who have already experienced the Olympics.

So, "we push ourselves to go forward". "Proud" to have qualified for the Paris Games with 35 other refugee athletes, he nevertheless says that he "One little thing left, to finish the job. Have a medal. For me, it remains to be done, absolutely".

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(function(d,s){d.getElementById("licnt2061").src= ";r"+escape(d.referrer)+ ((typeof(s)=="undefined")?"":";s"+s.width+"*"+s.height+"*"+ (s.colorDepth?s.colorDepth:s.pixelDepth))+";u"+escape(d.URL)+ ";h"+escape(d.title.substring(0,150))+";"+Math.random()}) (document,screen)