Egyptian swimmer Abdelrahman Sameh faces death threats for supporting Palestinians

Abdelrahman Sameh

CAIRO: Egyptian swimmer Abdelrahman Sameh, who also goes by Abdelrahman Elaraby, revealed that he has received death threats for expressing solidarity with Palestine, causing him to forgo celebration despite clinching a gold medal at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup 2023 in Greece last week.

Amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, Sameh disclosed that he has endured a mentally taxing week, marred by threats and animosity.

“I have been getting death threats – people have been attacking me all week for supporting Palestine,” Sameh stated when asked about his victory. He elaborated on the concerns that have gripped his family, saying, “My family goes to sleep, not knowing if someone is going to break into my room, if somebody is going to break into my apartment. They have to wonder every time I don’t pick up a call, ‘Is he busy or is someone trying to kill him?'”

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The 23-year-old Egyptian swimmer is affiliated with the University of Notre Dame’s swimming and diving team in Indiana, United States. His impressive victory in the men’s 50-meter butterfly final at the World Cup saw him surpass favorites Isaac Cooper of Australia and Michael Andrew of the United States. However, Sameh chose not to celebrate his achievement, given the distressing situation in Palestine.

“My brothers and sisters are being killed in Palestine, and I’m threatened with death just because it’s a cause I’m standing for,” Sameh added, reflecting on the turmoil that has cast a shadow over his victory.

The escalation in threats followed Sameh’s social media posts and messages expressing his support for the Palestinian cause. He emphasized that his stance is grounded in a belief in the value of all human lives. Israeli swimming officials have taken issue with Sameh’s solidarity actions, prompting Israel Swimming Association Chairman Miki Halika to write to the World Aquatics, the global governing body for swimming, urging them to “take action against swimmers who support terrorism.”

Despite the backlash, Sameh participated in the 50-meter final, which he won. However, concerns arose when some users noted his absence or cropping out from an image showing the final list of winners posted on the World Aquatics account, leading to the trending hashtag “#WeStandWithAbdelrahmanSameh.”

World Aquatics remove photos Abdelrahman Sameh

Meanwhile, World Aquatics, formerly recognized as FINA, has removed photos of world champion Abdelrahman Sameh from their official platforms in response to his recent statements expressing solidarity with Palestine.

Tunisia’s Olympic swimming champion Ahmed Hafnaoui also faced threats for his support of Palestine. Hafnaoui, who clinched the 400-meter freestyle gold at Tokyo 2020, has shared links to fundraisers aimed at aiding those affected by the conflict in Palestine. The Tunisian athlete has consistently voiced support for the Palestinian cause, drawing the attention of American swimmer Eli Cohen, who accused him of “donating to terror.”

Hafnaoui’s support for Palestine, including dedicating his medal in Tokyo to the Palestinian people, has left him facing hostility, even as his heartfelt message resonated with many around the world.

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