Iran’s World Cup win against Wales draws mixed reactions from Iranians

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Iran’s 2-0 victory over Wales in their second World Cup game drew mixed reactions from Iranians. Some refused to celebrate the win, insisting the team represents the regime, while others said the players were playing for their compatriots back home.

Iran scored twice after the eighth minute of stoppage time to snatch a 2-0 win over Wales that breathed new life into their World Cup campaign.

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“Only our jailers, interrogators and murderers are celebrating the victory of Islamic Republic’s football team in the World Cup,” Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad tweeted after the game, sharing a video of security forces in Iran who were seen celebrating the win against Wales.

“Iranians are in mourning for more than 500 protesters including 50 children [who] were killed by these security forces in the ongoing uprising,” she added.

“Iran lost,” tweeted Iranian-Canadian lawyer and human rights activist Kaveh Shahrooz, posting a screenshot of a news article about the Voria Ghafouri, an Iranian Kurdish footballer who was arrested on Thursday for supporting the ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran.

Others came out in support of the Iranian team, saying the players played for the people of Iran, not the regime.

“I appreciate the efforts of the national team,” MBC Persia’s Sina Valiollah wrote on twitter, adding that the player “played for the people, not the government.”

Valiollah added in another tweet that he believed the players should not have celebrated their win given the situation back home.

“I also believe that they shouldn’t have celebrated, but I am sure that, except for a small minority, the rest of the team are saddened from the bottom of their hearts and are with the people and tired of the dictatorship,” he wrote.

US-based Iranian writer Arash Azizi said opposing Iran’s team is not in the interests of the uprising against the regime.

“From the point of view of the interests of the Iranian national revolution against the Islamic Republic, expressing enmity with the national team is completely wrong,” Azizi wrote on Twitter.

“The revolution must always try to gather the widest ranks of people behind it and to find the issues that unite these broad ranks against [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei,” he said, adding that not supporting the national football team is not one of those unifying issues.

Iran’s national football team has traditionally been a huge source of national pride in Iran, but they have found themselves caught up in politics in the World Cup run-up, with anticipation over whether they would use football’s showpiece event as a platform to get behind the protesters.

Others criticised Qatar for censoring anti-regime slogans at stadiums.

“#Qatar has censored anti #Iran regime signs/flags at #Qatar2022 and sent away England supporters “dressed like Crusades” because that hurt feelings of Muslims (who never conquered anyone?). But pix of late top terrorist Soleimani in Doha World Cup stadiums you’ll find plenty,” Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a research fellow at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), tweeted, sharing an image of a fan holding up an image of Iranain commander Qassem Soleimani at Iran’s game against Wales.

Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq on January 3, 2020, ordered by then President Donald Trump. He headed the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Qatari authorities have also reportedly not allowed Iranian fans with anti-regime signs as well as the pre-1979 revolution “lion and sun” flag to enter stadiums.

Protests have swept across Iran since September 16 when 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died three days after collapsing in police custody. She had been detained by Tehran’s morality police for allegedly not complying with the regime’s strict hijab rules.

Demonstrators have been calling for regime change in the protests which have become one of the boldest challenges to the regime since its establishment in 1979.

At least 416 people, including 51 children and 27 women, have been killed by security forces in the protests, according to the Oslo-based rights group Iran Human Rights (IHR).

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