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Why aren’t Iran players singing the national anthem before games at the World Cup?

Tuesday’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Iran is going to be a hugely watched game not only for its tournament implications but also to serve as a spotlight on the immense human rights protest movement that has taken Iran by storm this fall.

Iran’s players already made a powerful statement on Monday at the Khalifa International Stadium during their World Cup opener against England.

As the Iranian national anthem played out before the game kicked off, the players stood silent in a show of solidarity with those protesting back home.

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Fans in the stands stayed loud as their own form of protest, while some were heard booing the national anthem, and others carrying banners that read “Woman. Life. Freedom.”

Some fans were even denied entry to the game for showing a Persian flag rather than an Iranian one; the Persian flag is adorned with a lion and sun in the center, while the Iranian one has a red Islamic emblem with Kufic script written above and below.

Iran’s government tumbling

Nationwide protests, chaos, and aggression have shaken Iran in recent months and threatened its regime, which has been in power for over 40 years.

The protests were sparked by the country’s treatment of women, particularly after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly wearing a hijab too loosely and later died in police custody in September.

Since then, Iran has arrested almost 16,000 protestors, and 351 people have died (including 58 Iranian children) during protests, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. Iran has also reportedly sentenced three people to death and five others to 5-10 years imprisonment due to protesting.

Silent but loud

The football players are not the first ones to show these acts of defiance against the Iranian government on an international stage. Many Iranian athletes and celebrities have backed the protestors, and some have even come with some potentially scary consequences.

Iranian professional climber Elnaz Rekabi didn’t cover her hair during an international competition in October, and her safety was questioned even after she returned to her country.

The football team’s decision to stay silent during the national anthem is probably the biggest display of support.

Ehsan Hajsafi, the captain of the Iranian team, spoke of the matter in Qatar, saying that “we are with them and sympathize with them,” and offered his condolences to “all the bereaved families of Iran.”

IMPORTANT 🇮🇷 Ahead of their game against England, Iran’s captain Ehsan Hajsafi becomes the first Iranian player to speak out in support of women’s rights protesters in his home country, expressing condolences to families who’ve lost loved ones.pic.twitter.com/iyOiZ9cikl

— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) November 21, 2022

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