Iranian Football Team Go Silent For National Anthem At World Cup, As Protests Rage On In Iran
Iranian players at Doha's Khalifa International Stadium stood in silence as their national anthem resounded.
Prior to their 6-2 loss in Qatar, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh had said the team would decide collectively whether to refuse to perform the national anthem in a show of solidarity with protesters who have shaken the Islamic republic's administration.
Shaimaa Khalil of BBC News reported that "it was impossible to escape the symbolic gestures in the game. All of Iran's players refused to sing the national anthem as it sounded across the Khalifa International Stadium".
So long as it's "in the spirit of the game" and "conforms with the World Cup criteria," coach Carlos Queiroz had given his players the green light to demonstrate for women's rights back home.
In September, when Iran played two international friendlies, its players concealed their national team emblem.
At intervals, Iranian fans could be heard chanting, "Azadi, Azadi," which translates to "freedom, freedom," while a banner reading "Women Life Freedom" was temporarily hoisted.
Since Mahsa Amini died in morality police detention on September 16, Iran has been rocked by widespread protests for two months.Three days after being arrested in Tehran for allegedly not wearing the required hijab headscarf, Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish descent, tragically passed away.
As many of the regime's detractors have voiced their displeasure with Team Melli's perceived lack of support, the players' actions in Doha have come under intense scrutiny.
Players meeting with Iran's ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi before leaving for the World Cup only served to cement this stereotype in the minds of many.
About two hundred spectators gathered near Iran's national library in the capital city of Tehran to watch the game on a massive screen.
Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organization, reports that almost 400 people have been killed in the crackdown since Amini's death.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has been ruled by an iron hand, and the state's response has raised issues about whether the squad represents Iran or the dictatorship.