Iran on Thursday arrested a prominent former member of its national soccer team for criticizing the governmentWhich has overshadowed his competition in the World Cup.
The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Woria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national football team and propagating against the government”.
Ghafouri, who was not selected for the World Cup, has been a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities throughout his career. They objected to Iran’s confrontational foreign policy, along with a long-standing ban on female spectators at men’s soccer matches, which has undermined Western sanctions.
Recently, he expressed his condolences to the familyThe latest protests erupted while in custody of Iran’s morality police. In recent days, he also called for an end to the violent crackdown on protests in Iran’s western Kurdistan region.
Reports of his arrest came ahead of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. In Iran’s opening match, 6–2 defeat by England, members of the Iranian national teamHis national anthem and some fans expressed support for the protest.
Before that gesture, the team had lost the support of fellow Iranians for a meeting with hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Holly DeGrace, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told CBS News this week.
DeGrace said that while the team’s silence during the anthem “may seem too important, many Iranians were already disappointed by the team’s behavior last week.”
In addition to the meeting with Raisi, Degres said that photos showed players celebrating their entry into the World Cup, as “protesters were being beaten in the streets by security forces”, with many Iranians cheering for their team. was not seen as “representative of them, but of the clerical establishment.”
The protests erupted after the killing of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested by the moral police in the capital Tehran on September 16. TheyIn nationwide protests demanding the end of the Islamic Republic. The country’s western Kurdish region, where both Amini and Ghafouri live, has been the center of protests. Shops remained closed after a general strike was called in the area on Thursday.
Iranian officials have not said whether Ghafouri’s activism was the reason he was not selected for the national team. He plays for the Khuzestan Football team in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. Club chairman Hamidreza Gurshasbi resigned later on Thursday, the semi-official ILNA news agency said without elaborating.
The protests show no sign of abating, and are one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s ruling clerics since the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought them to power. Rights groups say security forces have used live ammunition and birdshot on protesters, as well as beaten and arrested them, with much of the violence recorded on video. Iran last weekTo participate in the protest.
At least 442 protesters have been killed and more than 18,000 detained since the unrest began, according to human rights activists in Iran, a group that monitors the protests.
The UN Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn the crackdown and to create an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly against women and children.
Officials have blamed the unrest on hostile foreign powers without providing evidence, saying separatists and other armed groups have attacked security forces. Human rights activists in Iran say at least 57 security personnel have been killed, while state media put the number higher.
Protesters say they are fed up with decades of social and political oppression, including a strict dress code for women. Young women have taken a leading role in the protests, shedding the mandatory Islamic headscarf to reject clerical rule.
Some Iranians are actively against their own team at the World Cup, associating it with rulers they see as violent and corrupt. Others insist that the national team, which includes players who have expressed solidarity with the protests on social media, represents the people of the country.
The team’s star forward, Sardar Azmoun, who has been vocal about the protests online, was on the bench during the opening match. In addition to Ghafouri, two other former football stars have been arrested for expressing support for the protests.
Other Iranian players have also joined this struggle.
Iranian rock climbersMandatory headscarves at an international competition in South Korea in October, a move widely seen as a show of support for the protests. He was given a hero’s welcome by protesters upon his return to Iran, even telling state media that the move was “unintentional” in an interview that may have been given under duress.
Earlier this month, Iran’s football federation threatened to punish the players of the beach soccer team after they beat Brazil in an international competition in Dubai. After scoring a goal, one player celebrated by cutting his hair in imitation of a female protester.