Julian Finney/Getty Images
Before the first game of this year’s World Cup, the Iranian national team gathered for the national anthems, and the players stood side by side and put their arms on each other’s shoulders.
But instead of singing, they remained gagged – an apparent show of solidarity on the world’s biggest stage with the human rights protest movement sweeping their homeland. Players of the opposing team England, they sang the national anthemas is customary.
For months, Iranians flocked to the streets in demonstrations ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died under the control of the country’s morality police. She was detained for not wearing her hijab properly.
The Iranian regime tried to suppress the protests with the violent intervention of the police. Human rights groups claim that more than 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds killed.
Now the authorities are prosecuting the demonstrators; Iranian courts have already sentenced six people to death.
The Iranian national team did not want to sing the national anthem #EnglandVsIran the game begins #FIFAWorldCup, support for a women-led revolution in the country. The Iranian crowd also sang its national anthem. Amazing! ✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/qBwZqYHbqF
— Shabnam Nasimi (@NasimiShabnam) November 21, 2022
“The Iranian authorities have a long history of using these tests to make their point,” Tara Sepehri Far of Human Rights Watch told NPR earlier this month. “Only in the last ten years have we seen that the protests have intensified, not died down, and the calls have become more progressive and more radical.
Iran’s current national anthem was adopted in 1990 after the death of Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. It celebrates the Islamic Republic of Iran, an ultraconservative theocratic regime that took control of the country after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Videos from the stands Some Iranian fans were also seen chanting the national anthem.
Iranian players have made limited public comments about the protests. Iran’s captain Ehsan Hajsafi expressed his condolences to the families of the victims at the weekend’s pre-game press conference. “I want them to know that we are with them and we feel their pain.
Perhaps no one offered more powerful words than Saman Goddos, Iran’s Swedish-born midfielder. Athletic. “No one is happy about it and everyone wants to see change,” he said. “It’s not something in particular that people want – it’s just freedom. I don’t want to say fight for it, because I don’t think violence is the right way, but something has to change and it’s going on. long.”
In a friendly in September shortly after the protests began, Iran’s national team wore black during the national anthem and some players refused to sing.
Monday’s match was Iran’s first appearance at this year’s World Cup. They faced England, the favorite of the tournament, and won 6:2. Iran’s next game is against Wales on Friday.
Before the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino questioned Iran’s human rights record and defended Iran’s entry into the tournament. “Because it’s not two regimes playing against each other. It’s not two ideologies playing against each other. It’s two football teams playing against each other. That’s football. That’s football,” he said.
NPR’s Research, Archives and Information Strategy team contributed to this report.