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Iranian fans clash ahead of Wales game

5:27AM EST

  • Associated Press

Tensions rose during Iran’s 2-0 World Cup win over Wales on Friday as fans supporting the Iranian government harassed protesters and stadium security confiscated flags, T-shirts and other items expressing support for the protest movement sweeping the Islamic Republic.

Some fans were prevented by stadium security from carrying the Persian pre-revolutionary flag to the game against Wales at the Ahmed Ben Ali Stadium.

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Others carrying such flags were torn from their hands by pro-government Iranian fans who also insulted fans in T-shirts as the protest movement swept the country Slogan: “Women, Life, Freedom”. Their national anthem was played before the game, and some fans in the stadium wept, whistled and booed. has haunted Iran for weeks.

Iran midfielder Rouzbeh Cheshmi, who scored the opening goal against Wales, says Carlos Queiroz’s side overcame ‘non-football pressure’ to win .

The team was criticized for representing the government in Iran, while pro-regime supporters condemned players for refusing to sing the national anthem ahead of a 6-2 win over England.

While playing for Esteghlal in Iran, Cesmi said that he and his teammates overcame tremendous pressure in the Qatar game.

“In the first game there was a lot of pressure on the team and the team and that’s why we couldn’t get the result we needed against England,” Cheshmi said. “This time we were ready and we were able to win. It was because of the unity of the players that we were able to achieve this result.

” I should say that if the pressure comes from Football-related, that’s acceptable, you have good days and bad days, but it’s not right if the pressure is unfairly placed on us.

“There were some things that weren’t fair, we were under pressure from a non-football side, the whole family helped each other. I scored goals but the team got the job done. “

Before the game, there was a burst of shouting outside the stadium, where fans chanted “Women, Life, Freedom” and others chanted “Islamic Republic!”

, a small group of men surrounded three different women who were being interviewed by foreign protesters. Media outside the stadium disrupted the broadcast, angrily chanting “Islamic Republic of Iran! “

Many female fans seemed shocked when Iranian government supporters yelled at them in Persian and movies featured them on their phones.

Inside the stadium, a woman with crimson tears in her eyes held up a jersey that read “Mahsa Amini – 22” – Reuters pictures showed her referring to a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman whose death in police custody two months ago sparked nationwide protests in Iran.

A 35-year-old woman, Mariam, who declined to give her last name out of fear of government reprisals like other Iranian fans, began crying as shouting men surrounded her with trumpets and took a picture of her face.

The words “Women Live Freely” were painted on her face.

Maryam and her friends wore hats bearing the name of Voria Ghafouri, an outspoken Iranian former soccer player who criticized Iranian authorities and was arrested in Iran on Thursday on charges of It is spreading propaganda against the government.

She said supporters of the Iranian government took their hats off their heads ds.

“We want to raise awareness of his arrest and the women’s rights movement. It was simple,” said Maryam, who lives in London but is originally from Tehran. “I didn’t come here to fight anyone, but people kept attacking me and calling me a terrorist. What I’m trying to say here is that football doesn’t matter if people are getting killed in the street.”

Kurdish Ghafouri were star members of Iran’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad but were surprisingly not named in Qatar’s squad this year.

“Obviously, the matches this week have become very political. You can see people from the same country hating each other,” said Mustafa, a 40-year-old Iranian fan. , who also declined to give his last name.

“I think the arrest of Voria has also had a big impact on Iranian society.”

Angry protesters in Iran have been venting their dissatisfaction with Outrage over social and political repression and state-mandated hijab or hijab for women.

Demonstrations sparked swiftly following Amini’s death in the custody of the country’s morality police on Sept. 16 That developed into calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself.

At least 419 people have been killed since the protests broke out, according to human rights activists from the Iran monitoring group.

The turmoil overshadows Iran’s World Cup campaign.

Monday’s opener against England was marked by protests, with anti-government fans waving signs and chanting from the stands.

Prior to that 6-2 defeat, the Iranian players were silent and did not celebrate their two goals when their national anthem was played.

They sang to the national anthem and celebrated Wales wildly as they won 2-0 on Friday.

Ayeh Shams from the United States and her brother said security guards confiscated her flag because it had the word ‘woman’ on it during their game against Wales.

“We are first generation Americans. Our parents were born in Iran. We just come here to enjoy the game and provide a platform for the people of Iran against the Islamic regime,” Shams said .

Zeinlabda Arwa, a security guard at the stadium, confirmed that authorities had been ordered to confiscate anything other than the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Whether you’re talking about Iran, Qatar or any country, you’re just allowed to carry normal flags,” she said. The Persian flag served as a cape until he took it off and put it in his bag.

“They didn’t like that it was a political statement,” he said, adding that other Iranian fans approached him to show their appreciation for his gesture.

Iranians chanted anti-government slogans from rooftops in Tehran ahead of Friday’s match.

Scattered protests also erupted in Kurdish towns in the country’s west The football prowess of the Iranians, wishing the national team good results against Wales, and broadcast a montage of goals in Iranian history.

This report uses information from ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden and Reuters.



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