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What the FIFA World Cup Means for Iran

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Iranians strive to enlighten FIFA World Cup fans about their country’s hardships as Iran fights internal unrest.

Iranian national football players competing on the international stage reportedly objected to singing the national anthem. Before games begin, players will sing their respective national anthems as customary. They competed against England, whose players joined when the country’s anthem played. Iranian football players, meanwhile, remained motionless and silent. The gesture represented the Iranian’s current difficulties rather than just the game.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian, became a casualty at the hands of the nation’s police a few months ago. Her death started numerous public protests that lasted for months, up until the present marches through the streets of the nation. The police held Amini because she allegedly donned her hijab incorrectly. The Iranian authorities used violence in reaction to the protests. And according to accounts, hundreds have been slain and detained.

“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 informing people at the World Cup

Iranian civilians have struggled under a 40-year tyranny, yet their national football squad traveled to Qatar to play. Other supporters of the cause objected to this. Others believe that the national team may have a chance to inform the world about Iran’s challenges if they compete on the international scene.

“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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‘Show people what’s going on’

Some organizations and advocacy groups wrote to FIFA several months ago requesting that it prevent Iran from competing on the international scene. FIFA, however, clarified that politics and sports should be treated as independent endeavors. They also said Iran would be permitted 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

Jerry Cooper is a reporter who is based in New York. He has previously worked for several media organizations, including NY Wire.

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