Iran fans showed their support for women’s rights protestors during their 2022 World Cup opening match against England.
The Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar played host to the clash between the two Group B teams.
It was a brilliant start to the tournament for England, who triumphed 6-1 after two goals from Bukayo Saka, and one apiece for Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.
The match was not without its controversy, however, with the FA deciding to scrap plans for Harry Kane to wear a One Love armband just hours before kick-off.
Social media users have compared this decision with the Iranian players’ refusal to sing their national anthem before the match, thought to be a protest against the country’s authoritarian regime.
Iran fans with a message before their World Cup opener: pic.twitter.com/icJ8E250wN — B/R Football (@brfootball) November 21, 2022
Meanwhile, in the stands, Iran fans showed their discontent with the regime by booing the anthem. One group also produced a sign which read: “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
Later in the match, a fan held up an Iran shirt emblazoned with the name Masha Amini, whose death in September sparked widespread anti-government protests across the country.
The shirt being held up here has Masha Amini's name on the back. pic.twitter.com/GtM5Qcq5DN — Mark Douglas (@MsiDouglas) November 21, 2022
The protests in Iran broke out after the death of the 22-year-old Amini, who was arrested by morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.
She died in custody in September after falling into a coma, with reports claiming she had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and stroke after the police had brutally beaten her.
Loud whistling from Iran fans for their own national anthem, many of whom are protesting against their regime pic.twitter.com/nk65KVW00U November 21, 2022
FIFA were urged by campaigners to ban Iran from the World Cup in the run-up to the tournament, with Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad sending a formal letter to the governing body in collaboration with Spanish law firm Ruiz-Huerta & Crespo.
More than 26,000 people signed a petition on change.org asking for Iran to be banned from the tournament, while human rights group Open Stadiums made the same request.
Both Alinejad and Open Stadiums argued that the treatment of women in Iran should lead to the country’s exclusion from the World Cup, particularly the regulations which prevent women from watching football matches.DOHA, QATAR – NOVEMBER 21: Iranian fans hold up signs prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and IR Iran at Khalifa International Stadium on November 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Defender Ehsan Hajsafi became the first member of Iran’s squad to speak about the protests.
“They should know that we are with them,” the AEK Athens said in a press conference yesterday. “And we support them. And we sympathise with them regarding the conditions.
“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy. We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them.”
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