Some fans were prevented by stadium security from bringing pre-revolutionary Persian flags for a match against Wales at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. Others carrying these flags were ripped from their hands by pro-government fans in Iran, who also shouted insults at fans wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan of the protest movement sweeping the country, “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
Unlike in the first match against England, the Iranian players sang along to their national anthem before the match as some fans in the stadium cried, whistled and booed.
The national team came under close scrutiny for any statements or gestures about the protests that have engulfed Iran for weeks.
Screaming matches broke out in lines outside the stadium between fans shouting “Women, Life, Freedom” and others chanting “Islamic Republic!”
Small crowds of men surrounded three different women who gave interviews about the protests to foreign media outside the stadium, disrupting the broadcast as they angrily chanted, “Islamic Republic of Iran!” Many female fans looked defeated when supporters of the Iranian government yelled at them in Farsi and filmed them close-up on their phones.
A 35-year-old woman named Maryam, who like other Iranian fans refused to give her last name for fear of government reprisals, began to cry as screaming men, blowing trumpets, surrounded her and filmed her face. She had the words “Woman’s Life Liberty” painted across her face.
We want to raise awareness of his arrest and the women’s rights movement. said Maryam, who lives in London but is originally from Tehran. I’m not here to fight with anyone, but people attack me and call me a terrorist. All I’m here to say is that football doesn’t matter if people get killed in the streets.”
Maryam and her friends wore hats bearing the name of former Iranian soccer player Fawriya Ghafouri, who was critical of the Iranian authorities and was arrested in Iran on Thursday on charges of spreading propaganda against the government. She said the supporters of the Iranian government had taken the hats off their heads.
Ghafouri, who is Kurdish, was a star player in the Iran national team in the 2018 World Cup, but surprisingly, he was not included in the squad for this year in Qatar.
“Obviously, the match has become very politicized this week. You can see people from the same country hating each other,” said Mostafa, a 40-year-old Iranian fan who declined to give his last name. “I think Fawry’s arrest also affected society in Iran. Much”.
Angry protesters in Iran have expressed their anger at social and political repression and the state-imposed veil on women. The demonstrations, sparked by the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police, quickly evolved into calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself. At least 419 people have been killed since the protests erupted, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran.
The unrest overshadowed the start of Iran’s World Cup campaign. The opening match against England on Monday saw protests as anti-government fans waved banners and chanted in the stands. Before that match, which Iran lost 6-2, its players kept silent, played their national anthem, and did not celebrate two goals. On Friday they sang along to the national anthem and celebrated wildly when they scored in a 2-0 win over Wales.
Ay Shams from the United States, who was at the match against Wales with her brother, said that security guards confiscated her flag because it had the word “women” written on it.
“We are the first generation of Americans. Our parents were born in Iran. We are just here to enjoy the games and give a platform to the Iranian people who are fighting against the Islamic regime,” said Shams.
Zeinlabadeh Arwa, a security guard at the stadium, confirmed that the authorities had been ordered to confiscate anything but the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
She said, “Whether you are talking about Iran, Qatar, or any country, you are only allowed to bring in the natural science.”
An angry group of Iranian government supporters yelled at Elias Doerr, a 16-year-old Iranian living in Arizona who wore the Persian flag as a cloak, to take it off and put it in his bag. “They don’t like it being a political statement,” he said, adding that other Iranian fans had called him to say they appreciated the gesture.
Before Friday’s game, Iranians chanted anti-government slogans from rooftops in Tehran. Sporadic protests erupted in Kurdish towns in the west of the country and across the central city of Isfahan on Thursday.
Iranian state television on Friday dedicated its main news bulletin to Iranian football’s prowess, wishing the national team well against Wales and broadcasting a montage of Iranian goals throughout history.
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