US Reporter

Iran Hopes to Raise Awareness at the FIFA World Cup

As the country reels from internal turmoil, Iranians hope to shed light on the struggles of Iran to the audiences at the FIFA World Cup.

In an apparent protest, national football players representing Iran on the World Stage refused to sing their national anthem. As customary, players will sing their national anthems before the matches start. They faced off with England, whose players sang along when their national song played. However, Iranian football players just stood with their mouths shut. The gesture symbolized more than the game, but the Iranian’s current troubles.

A couple of months ago, a 22-year-old Iranian named Mahsa Amini died at the hands of the country’s police. Her death sparked numerous public demonstrations spanning months until the current rallies in the country’s streets. Amini was detained because she allegedly improperly wore her hijab. As a response to the rallies, the Iranian government resorted to violence. And sources say that thousands have been arrested and killed.

“There’s a long history of Iranian authorities using these trials to make their points. Yet we have only seen protests intensifying over the past decade, not going away, and the calls are becoming more progressive and more radical, not less,” said Tara Sepehri Far from Human Rights Watch.

“No one is happy about it, and everybody wants to see a change. What the people want is nothing special — it’s just freedom. I don’t want to say go fight for it because I don’t think violence is the right way, but something needs to change, and this has been going on for too long,” said Saman Ghoddos, a midfielder for Iran, in one interview.

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Iran to raise awareness at the World Cup

Despite the troubles faced by Iranian citizens against a 40-year-regime, their national football team traveled to Qatar to compete. This drew criticisms from other advocates. However, other players think that getting into the world stage might present an opportunity for the national team to let the world know about what Iran faces.

“I am so disappointed, so heartbroken by these. The lack of common sense, lack of empathy and insensitivity shown in these pictures is genuinely disheartening. The photo op is FIFA’s requirement, but the poses are not. There is a clear absence of any sense of awareness.” said Sina Saemian, a football journalist from Iran.

“The perception has changed about the players, the national team itself. People call it the national team of the Islamic Republic and not the national team of the people of Iran,” added Omid Namazi, a former assistant coach of the Iranian team.

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Showing people what’s going on

Several months ago, several advocacy groups and organizations wrote to FIFA and urged it to ban Iran from participating on the world stage. However, FIFA explained that politics and the sport should be separate undertakings. They added that they would allow Iran to participate in the World Cup.

“We’re not the United Nations. And we’re not the world police. I don’t know the blue helmets. I’ve heard about it, and from my point of view, I don’t know if it’s the right direction. Because I always think that football should be outside politics and should not be involved in that,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino explained.

“But I don’t think it’s the right move to kick out Iran from the World Cup, but maybe we can put a light and show people what’s going on.”

Photo Credit: Hannah Mckay

Source: NPR

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