Iran’s national soccer team did not to sing the country’s national anthem before their World Cup opener at Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium against England on Monday in what is widely considered to be an act of protest against the death of Mahsa Amini.
Protests have been mounting in Iran since the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Amini while in custody of Iran’s morality police after she was arrested for not wearing the state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women.
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And it seems clear those protests are now also reverberating on the soccer pitch in Doha.
On Sunday, questioned by journalists, Iran’s team captain Ehsan Hajisafi had been clear about the fact that the team sided with the uprising prompted by Amini’s death, which organization Human Rights Activists says has caused more than 400 protesters to be killed since the protests began and more than 16,000 people arrested.
“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” Hajisafi said. “We are here, but it does not mean that we should not be their voice or we should not respect them,” the team leader added.
Iranian fans at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday also sided with the team’s political position. Many fans displayed the words “Woman, Life, Freedom” on T-shirts and signs.
And during the match against England, fans also chanted Amini’s name.
The protests on the soccer pitch in Qatar follow recent bold acts of defiance in Iran’s film and TV industry — some of which have had heavy consequences. Over the weekend, popular Iranian actors Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested and imprisoned in Iran after they appeared in public and on social media having removed their headscarves in a bold protest against Amini’s death.
As the World Cup wares on, some political watchers will be curious whether Iran’s soccer team will return home without any issues, or whether they may instead ask for political asylum.
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