Iranian footballer arrested during World Cup scrutiny

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran announced on Thursday that its national football team had been banned on Thursday, citing criticism of the government, as authorities grappled with nationwide protests that have overshadowed competition at the World Cup. A prominent ex-member was arrested.

Fars and Tasnim semi-official news agencies reported that Voria Ghafouri had been arrested for “insulting the national football team and propaganda against the government”.

Ghafuri, who was not selected for the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities throughout his career. did.

Most recently, he expressed his sympathy for the family of a 22-year-old woman who died while in Iran’s moral police custody. ignited the recent protestsMore recently, he has also violent crackdown on protests Western Kurdistan region of Iran.

Reports of his arrest came ahead of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. refuse, Some fans expressed support for the protest.

Protests were sparked by the death of a Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by moral police in the capital Tehran on September 16. They quickly escalated into nationwide demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The western Kurdistan region of the country, where Amini and her Ghafouri are from, has been the epicenter of the protests. Shops in the area were closed on Thursday following calls for a general strike.

Iranian officials have not clarified whether Ghafouri’s activities were a factor in his not being selected for the national team. The club’s president, Hamidreza Garshasbi, resigned late Thursday, his semi-official ILNA news agency reported, without giving details.

The protests show no signs of abating and have been one of the biggest challenges for Iran’s ruling cleric since coming to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Rights groups said security forces fired live ammunition and bird shots at demonstrators, beat them and arrested them, much of the violence captured on video.

At least 442 protesters have been killed and more than 18,000 detained since the riots began, according to Iranian human rights activists, a group that has been monitoring the protests.

United Nations Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn the crackdown Create an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly those of women and children.

Authorities have blamed the unrest, without providing evidence, on hostile foreign forces, saying separatists and other armed groups attacked security forces. It said at least 57 security personnel were killed, although state media reported many more casualties.

Protesters say they are fed up with decades of social and political repression, including imposing strict dress codes on women. Young women have taken leading roles in protests, stripping off the mandatory Muslim headscarves to express their rejection of clerical rule.

Some Iranians actively support their teams at the World Cup and associate them with rulers they see as violent and corrupt. Others argue that the national team, which includes players who have spoken out on social media in solidarity with the protests, represent the people.

The team’s star forward, Sardar Azmon, who has been vocal about the protests online, was on the bench in the opener. In addition to Ghafouri, two other former football stars have been arrested for expressing support for his protest.

Other Iranian athletes have also been caught in the struggle.

Iranian rock climber Ernaz Rekhabi competed at an international competition in South Korea in October without wearing the mandatory headscarf. hero’s welcome Even though she told state media in an interview that may have been coerced by protesters on her return to Iran that the move was “unintentional.”

Earlier this month, Iran’s football federation threatened to punish the players of its beach soccer team after beating Brazil in an international tournament in Dubai. and celebrated after scoring a goal.