A prominent Iranian soccer player has been arrested for criticizing the government, according to reports.
One of the country’s most famous players,uriya Ghafouri, had previously played for the national team but was not selected for the World Cup squad. The arrest comes after Iran’s players refused to sing the national anthem during the match against England on Monday (November 21).
Ghafouri has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities and policies throughout his career. The Guardian reported that he had spoken out in defense of Iranian Kurds, telling the government on social media to stop killing Kurds and that he had previously been arrested for criticizing former Iranianoreign Minister Javad Zarif.
The footballer currently plays foroolad in Iran and was previously the captain of EsteghlalC in Tehran. The semi-officialars and Tasnim news agencies reported on Thursday (November 24) that he had been arrested on charges of insulting the national team currently playing in the World Cup, and criticizing the government.
News of his arrest came ahead ofriday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. Iran has been rocked by anti-government protests for more than two months, the biggest challenge to the Islamic theocracy in more than a decade.
In Iran’s opening match against England, members of the Iranian national team refused to sing along with the national anthem and some fans protested during the match. Protests flared after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman in the custody of the country’s morality police in September.
It quickly escalated into nationwide demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The western Kurdish region of the country has seen particularly intense protests and a bloody crackdown by security forces.
What happened to Nika Shkarami?
Nika Shekarami was a 16-year-old girl from Tehran. The teenage girl had joined the protests – which have been going on in Iran since September 16 – by burning her headscarf on September 20.
The moment was filmed and posted on social media. In the video, Nika can be seen standing on a rubbish bin burning cloth in her hand, while her supporters around her chanted anti-government and anti-Islamic Republic slogans.
Mika then told a friend who was being chased by the police, and witnesses told CNN they saw her get arrested by “a number of senior security officers.” She went missing the same day, and was later found dead.
Iranian authorities said Nika’s body was found in a courtyard, but they did not allow her mother, Ms. Shekarami, to identify her daughter until eight days after her death. The public prosecutor later said that Nika’s death was not related to the protests, with confusion over whether authorities were looking for the perpetrators after she said she was pushed or fell from the roof.
Mrs. Shakarami, Nika’s mother, accused the authorities of killing her daughter. Iranian state media released footage of a young woman walking into a building, similar to the one where Nika died.