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Protesters in Iran celebrate defeat at World Cup, as fear surrounds return of players




CNN

Iran’s World Cup defeat to the United States was met with cheers and celebration in Tehran and other Iranian cities on Tuesday night, as protesters hailed the country’s exclusion from the tournament. Fighting is a big blow. ruling regime.

The country was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar after Losing 1-0 on Tuesdayended a campaign that has been overshadowed by anti-government protests that have raged for months at home.

But there are concerns about the safety of Iranian players returning home via the Persian Gulf, after the team initially refused to sing the Iranian national anthem before their first game in a show of apparent solidarity with the Iranians. protest. The team’s family is also threaten jail and torture before the game, a source involved with the game’s security said.

People in several Iranian cities celebrated from inside their homes and residential buildings shortly after the final whistle sounded in the early hours of Wednesday local time, while videos posted on social media. Assembly shows people honking car horns, chanting and whistling.

People in Iran celebrated the national team's defeat to the US on Tuesday night.

“I’m happy, this is a government that loses to the people,” a witness of the celebrations in a city in the Kurdish region, which CNN did not name because of security concerns, told CNN on Thursday. Private.

Norway-based Iranian rights group, Hengaw, has posted several videos of similar scenes. “People in Paveh are celebrating the Iranian national team’s loss to the US in the World Cup in Qatar, they are chanting ‘Down with Jash (traitors),” Hengaw wrote in a post.

The protests have rocked Iran for several months, triggering a deadly crackdown from the authorities. The nationwide uprising was first sparked by the death of Mahsa (also known as Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman of Iranian descent who died in mid-September after being arrested by the country’s ethics police. detention. Since then, protesters across Iran have rallied to express their displeasure with the regime.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, has said that the country is in the midst of a “comprehensive human rights crisis” as authorities crack down on protests.

Football has become an increasingly hot spot in recent weeks, with the World Cup drawing global attention to the turmoil inside the country.

And fans who follow the team in Qatar are increasingly conflicted about their support. “Our team was hacked,” longtime fan Farshad Soheil told CNN. “It no longer represents the Iranian people.”

Soheili said Iran’s regime had sought to politicize and weaponize the team, and criticized the players for not making a clearer statement about the protests. “It was a wasted historic opportunity,” Soheili said.

Before Tuesday’s match, many supporters said they didn’t want Iran to win. “The reason is not for football reasons, [but] for political reasons,” another fan named Farshid, who hid his last name for security reasons, told CNN in Doha.

“I have mixed feeling(s) and(s),” says Farshid. “I am a huge fan of Iran but unfortunately I cannot be a fan of the national team today because the current situation is unfolding and the government is trying to take over the game and the sport. this and use it as a platform to buy credibility and show that everything is normal (with) what is going on in Iran”.

Farshid said a lot of regime supporters also attended Iran’s World Cup matches in Doha and created a very tense environment for other Iranian fans by trying to interfere in his interview. them with the media.

Iran’s national team will advance to the second round of the World Cup if it wins or draws against the US, but now the team will return home after being eliminated from the group stage.

Midfielder Saeid Ezatolah told reporters after the game: “I’m really sorry on behalf of our players, our team, because we couldn’t have a chance to make it to the next round. “I hope our fans and people in Iran, they will forgive us. And I just feel sorry, that’s all.”

The team’s return will be closely watched amid concerns that the players could face retribution for briefly showing support for the protests, which have attracted international attention and praise from human rights groups.

The country’s flag and anthem have been rejected by protesters as symbols of the current regime. And, after the Iranian players refused to sing the Iranian national anthem in the opening match against England on November 21, a source regarding the security of the matches told CNN that the players were called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The source said they were told their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or if they joined any political protests against the Tehran regime.

The players sang the national anthem on Tuesday, and ahead of their second game against Wales last Friday, which saw a 2-0 win for Iran.

Hours before the match started on Tuesday, Iranian authorities said a former member of the national football team, Parviz Boroumand – who was arrested this month for criticizing the government – had been released on bail. according to state news agency IRNA.

Boroumand was arrested in mid-November during protests in Tehran, Iranian media reported. Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian-Kurdish footballer Voria Ghafouri was also released on bail.

Meanwhile, Iranian football legend Ali Karimi, sometimes referred to as the “Asian Maradona”, said he received death threats from family members after voicing support for the protests. protest.

The government has described him as one of the “main leaders” of the protests and issued an arrest warrant for him in early October accusing him of “getting along with the enemy” and “encouraging riot”, according to Iran’s Supreme Judicial Council. , both crimes carry the death penalty.

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