World Cup 2022: An Iranian was killed amid anti-government protesters celebrating the loss of their country’s national team

World Cup 2022: An Iranian was killed amid anti-government protesters celebrating the loss of their country’s national team

World Cup 2022: An Iranian was killed amid anti-government protesters celebrating the loss of their country’s national team

  • David Gritten
  • BBC

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Activists say Mahran Samak was killed by security forces after he blew his car horn in protest

One person was killed by security forces in northern Iran while anti-government protesters publicly celebrated the elimination of the national soccer team from the World Cup.

Activists said Mahran Samak was shot in the head after sounding his car horn in Bandar Anzali town, Gilan province, on Tuesday night.

Videos from other cities showed crowds cheering and dancing in the streets.

Many Iranians had refused to support their national team in Qatar, believing them to represent the Islamic Republic.

And pro-government media accused hostile forces inside and outside Iran of putting unfair pressure on players after they lost 1-0 to the United States.

The players refrained from singing the national anthem ahead of their first game, which ended in a six-goal defeat in favor of England, and in a strong show of solidarity with the protesters.

But they sang the anthem in the opening game against Wales, which they won 2-0, and in their politically charged duel with the United States.

Some of the protesters saw this as a betrayal of their cause, despite reports that the team was under intense pressure from the Iranian authorities.

The unrest began ten weeks ago after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, while she was being detained by Tehran’s Morality Police and accused of violating strict dress codes that require women to wear a headscarf.

Authorities responded to what they described as foreign-backed “riots” with a violent crackdown in which human rights activists said at least 450 people were killed, including 60 children. More than 18,000 people were reportedly arrested.

A video clip posted online Tuesday night shows dozens of people celebrating the loss of the Iran national soccer team in a square in Mahsa Amini’s hometown of Saqqez, in the north-west of the country. In the video, people can be heard cheering and waving scarves before setting off fireworks.

BBC Persian has received similar videos from several other cities in the Kurdish-majority region, where scores of protesters have reportedly been killed by security forces in recent weeks.

In Sanandaj, the epicenter of the protests, crowds were filmed dancing to music, while in Kermanshah and Marivan, protesters could be heard chanting “Woman, Life, Freedom,” one of the protests’ main slogans.

In Tehran, students from Imam Sadiq University gathered outside the dormitory and chanted “Death to the dishonorable” – an epithet used by protesters against security forces and chanted by fans inside the stadium during the Iran-England game.

An opposition group called 1,500 Tasfir, meaning 1,500 windows, released video clips showing security forces opening fire on protesters celebrating in the southwestern city of Behbahan and beating a woman in Qazvin, near Tehran.

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A crowd celebrates the loss of the Iran national soccer team by dancing to music in the northwestern city of Sanandaj

There was also a clash between opponents and supporters of the government in front of the Al-Thumama Stadium in Qatar after the game on Tuesday.

Danish journalist Rasmus Tantholt recorded a video clip showing a row of men with Iranian flags pushing a man in a T-shirt chanting “Woman, Life, Freedom” in English. The woman accompanying him was then heard complaining that she had been attacked and asking for help to escape safely from the stadium.

Another video made available to the BBC Persian Service shows a protester being violently arrested by security forces outside the stadium while chanting the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom”.

Meanwhile, Iran’s pro-government media have praised the national soccer team despite failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup.

“We are proud of Iran,” said the conservative newspaper Farikhtijan, while the IRGC-affiliated daily Javan said the team had “won the real game: the game to unite people’s hearts”.

The newspaper Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed directly by the supreme leader, entered the tournament under “the most unfair circumstances” and under pressure from “domestic and foreign mercenaries.”

The hardline Tasnim news agency dismissed a CNN report ahead of the game in which it quoted an unnamed security source as saying the Revolutionary Guards had threatened the families of Iranian players with “imprisonment and torture” if they weren’t “polite”.

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