Iranian footballer arrested for ‘propagandizing’ against regime

Illustrative: Voria Ghafouri (R) during the AFC Champions League group C match between Saudi's Al-Ahli and Iran's Esteghlal on April 27, 2021 at the King Abdullah sport city stadium in the Saudi city of Jeddah. (Photo: AFP)

Iran has arrested a prominent ex-member of its national soccer team for his criticism of the government, as authorities contend with nationwide protests that have cast a shadow over the team as it competes in the World Cup.

Thursday, the semiofficial news agencies Fars and Tasnim reported that Voria Ghafouri had been arrested for "insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government."

Ghafouri, who was not selected for the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities throughout his career, objecting to a longstanding ban on women attending men's soccer games and Iran's confrontational foreign policy, which has resulted in crippling Western sanctions.

Recently, he expressed his condolences to the family of a 22-year-old woman whose death in Iran's morality police custody sparked the most recent protests. Recently, he has also demanded an end to the violent suppression of protests in the western Kurdish region of Iran.

His arrest was reported before Friday's World Cup match between Iran and Wales. During Iran's opening match, a 6-2 loss to England, the Iranian national team refused to sing their national anthem, prompting some fans to protest.

The protests were sparked on September 16 by the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested by Tehran's morality police. Rapidly, they grew into nationwide protests demanding the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Amini was originally from the western Kurdish region of the country, where there have been particularly violent protests and a deadly crackdown by security forces.

Ghafouri, a member of Iran's Kurdish minority, has previously criticized government policies. Officials have not stated if this was a factor in their decision not to select him for the national team. In the southwestern city of Ahvaz, he is a member of the Khuzestan Foolad.

The ongoing protests represent one of the most significant challenges to Iran's ruling clerics since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought them to power. Authorities have blamed hostile foreign forces for the unrest, but have provided no proof.

After decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code for women, the protesters say they are fed up.

Publish : 2022-11-25 08:35:00

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