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Iranian protesters celebrate World Cup elimination

BBC News logo BBC News 11/30/2022

Anti-government protesters in Iran have been celebrating the national football team's elimination from the World Cup, following their 1-0 loss to the USA.

Videos showed people dancing in streets and honking car horns in Tehran and several other cities on Tuesday night.

Many Iranians refused to support their football team in Qatar, seeing it as a representation of the Islamic Republic.

State-affiliated media blamed hostile forces both inside and outside Iran for putting unfair pressure on the players.

The players did not sing the national anthem before their first game, a 6-2 defeat by England, in an apparent expression of solidarity with the protesters.

But they did sing at the Wales game, which they won 2-0, and at the politically-charged showdown against the USA.

Some protesters saw that as a betrayal of their cause even though there were reports that the team came under intense pressure from Iranian authorities.

The unrest started 10 weeks ago following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the strict rules requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab.

Authorities have responded to what they have portrayed as foreign-backed "riots" with a violent crackdown in which human rights activists say at least 450 people have been killed, including 60 children. More than 18,000 others are reported to have been arrested.

A video posted online on Tuesday night appeared to show dozens of people celebrating the Iranian football team's loss at a square in Mahsa Amini's home city of Saqqez, in the country's north-west. They can be heard cheering and waving headscarves before fireworks are set off.

BBC Persian also received similar videos from several other cities in the predominantly Kurdish region, where dozens of protesters have reportedly been killed by security forces in recent weeks.

Crowds were filmed dancing to music in Sanandaj, an epicentre of the unrest, while in Kermanshah and Marivan they were heard chanting "Woman, life, freedom" - one of the main slogans of the protests.

In Tehran, students at Imam Sadiq University gathered outside a hall of residence and chanted "Death to the dishonourable" - an adjective protesters have used against security forces and which was shouted by fans inside the stadium during Iran's match against England.

The opposition activist collective 1500tasvir posted videos that it said showed security forces opening fire at protesters celebrating in the south-western city of Behbahan and beating a woman in Qazvin, near Tehran.

There was also a confrontation between opponents and supporters of the government outside the Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar after Tuesday's match.

Danish journalist Rasmus Tantholdt filmed several men carrying Iranian flags shoving a man wearing a T-shirt saying "Woman, life, freedom" in English. A woman with him is then heard complaining that she attacked and asking for help to leave the stadium safely.

Another video obtained by BBC Persian showed a male protester being violently arrested by security guards outside the stadium while shouting "Woman, life, freedom".

State-affiliated media in Iran meanwhile praised the national football team despite their failure to qualify for the World Cup's knockout stages.

The conservative Farhikhtegan newspaper said "we are proud of Iran", while the Revolutionary Guards-linked daily Javan said the team had "won the real game: the game of uniting people's hearts".

Keyhan, whose editor is appointed by the supreme leader, said the team had gone into the tournament under "the most unfair conditions", with pressure from "mercenaries at home and abroad".

Before the match, the hard-line Tasnim news agency rejected a report by CNN, which cited an unnamed security source as saying that the Revolutionary Guards had threatened the families of the Iranian players with "imprisonment and torture" if they did not "behave".


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