A cyclist battling cancer had to halt a ride from Germany to India after being mugged in Iran. His story sparked mass support from Iranian social media users. "I've become a local legend without wanting to," he told DW.
Philipp Markgraf was celebrating his fourth month on the road when he was robbed and severely beaten by a group of young men in Iran.
The 28-year-old from Germany, who has been battling cancer, had his jaw and cheekbones broken in the attack, which he says took place near the Caspian Sea.
He recently returned to Germany for medical treatment in the southern city of Munich, having to break off the cycling trip from his home city of Dresden to India that he was doing to raise awareness for cancer.
"I'm doing really well," Markgraf told DW over the telephone.
Following the attack, Iranian doctors attempted to treat is broken jaw "by wiring it shut," he said. Doctors in Munich have meanwhile removed the wires.
Markgraf posted two pictures on Instagram: One following the attack in Iran (L) and one prior to the mugging (R)
Story goes viral in Iran
Following the mugging, Markgraf shared his story on Instagram — posting a before-and-after picture of him with a swollen face and bloodied eye.
The post went viral and has been liked over 77,000 times, also receiving tens of thousands of comments from Instagram users in Iran, sending their best wishes.
"Sorry. We love you," dozens of Iranian users wrote under the post.
"Come to Iran again. But this time send me a message and I'll help you to enjoy and have fun to forget that bad journey," one user said.
Markgraf says he doesn't harbor any ill will over what happened. He appeared surprised by the attention his story has received.
"I've become a local legend without wanting to," he told DW, adding that he hopes to resume his trip as soon as possible.
Markgraf had been trying to cycle from Germany to India — a 20,000-kilometer (12,400-mile) journey spanning 24 countries. The goal of the journey was to raise awareness for cancer as well as to raise money for a Dresden-based organization for children with cancer.
DW's Fabian von der Mark contributed reporting.