Iranian soccer player Voria Ghafouri has been arrested as part of the World Cup trial


A prominent Iranian soccer player was arrested on Thursday for charges including destroying the reputation of the country’s national team competing in the World Cup, state-affiliated Iranian media reported Thursday.

The player, Voria Ghafouri, is a former member of the Iran national team and a frequent critic of the government. His arrest comes at a moment when Iranian footballers are under scrutiny for their comments about a nationwide insurgency in Iran that has been going on for months.

Iran’s World Cup team silently nods to protests at home

The Iran national team declined to sing while playing the country’s national anthem during a game against England on Monday, in what was widely seen as a silent acknowledgment of the protests. Iran’s national broadcaster showed selected images of spectators cheering for Iran during the game but not the political signs worn by some.

Protests in Iran began in September after a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. The insurgency against Iran’s spiritual leadership has spread across the country, sparking a violent and deadly crackdown, including in ethnically Kurdish areas where human rights groups say dozens of people have been killed in recent days.

The UN Human Rights Council in a poll An investigation into alleged rights violations in Iran’s response to the protest movement was launched on Thursday. “Today’s meeting leaves no doubt that the HRC’s membership recognizes the seriousness of the situation in Iran, and the fact-finding mission established today will help identify those involved in the ongoing violent repression of the Iranian people and their actions be documented,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Rights groups say Iran is escalating crackdowns in Kurdish areas

Ghafouri, who is Kurdish, has criticized government officials on social media in the past and recently posted messages on Twitter condemning the killing of Kurds. Iranian news reports did not explain the reasons for his arrest, but said the charge included “spreading propaganda against” the Islamic Republic.

He has been called up to the national team several times over the past decade and has played for several Iranian club teams including Foolad Khuzestan, his current squad. ISNA, a semi-official news outlet, reported Thursday that Hamidreza Garshasbi, the team’s CEO, had resigned and said the reason for his resignation had not yet been disclosed.

Even before the start of the World Cup, some Iranians had called on FIFA, the world football governing body, to ban the national team called Team Melli as a sign of support for the protests. Others argued that Iran’s participation in the World Cup was a boon to the insurgency: a high-profile event that offered players and spectators a chance to express dissenting opinions while international media looked on.

Iran plays Wales on Friday.

World Cup in Qatar

Live Updates: The last eight teams to make their debuts in Qatar will face off in Group G and Group H matches on Thursday. Follow us for the latest news, updates and highlights.

USMNT: On their return to the World Cup, the young Americans settled for a 1-1 draw with Wales in their Group B opener defeated Iran 6-2 on Monday.

Qatar controversy: Football fans who wear the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusivity, have said they have been denied entry into World Cup stadiums and have been confronted by the public to remove the emblem.

Group leader: The USA men’s soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, has qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement on a disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 season. Here’s a close look at how all the teams in each group are faring stack.


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