DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran on Thursday arrested a distinguished former member of its nationwide soccer workforce for criticizing the federal government as authorities grapple with nationwide protests which have forged a shadow on his competitors on the World Cup.

The semi-official Fars and Tasnim information companies reported that Voria Ghafouri had been arrested for “insulting the nationwide soccer workforce and propaganda towards the federal government”.

Ghafouri, who was not chosen to go to the World Cup, has been a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities all through his profession. He opposed the longstanding ban on feminine spectators at males’s soccer matches in addition to Iran’s divisive international coverage, which has led to crippling Western sanctions.

Extra lately, he expressed sympathy for the household of a 22-year-old girl whose dying whereas within the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked the newest protests.. In current days he has additionally referred to as for an finish to a violent crackdown on protests within the West Kurdistan area of Iran.

Studies of his arrest got here forward of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. In Iran’s opening sport, a 6-2 loss to England, members of the Iranian nationwide workforce refused to sing their nationwide anthem and a few followers expressed help for the protests..

The protests have been sparked by the September 16 dying of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish girl arrested by morality police within the capital, Tehran. They shortly escalated into nationwide protests calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The Kurdish area within the west of the nation, the place Amini and Ghafouri are from, has been the epicenter of the protests. Outlets have been closed within the space on Thursday following requires a basic strike.

Iranian officers didn’t say whether or not Ghafouri’s activism was a think about not selecting him for the nationwide workforce. He performs for the Khuzestan Foolad workforce within the southwestern metropolis of Ahvaz. Membership president Hamidreza Garshasbi resigned in a while Thursday, semi-official ILNA information company reported, with out giving additional particulars.

The protests present no indicators of abating and mark one of many greatest challenges to Iran’s ruling clerics for the reason that 1979 Islamic Revolution introduced them to energy. Rights teams say safety forces used raging reside ammunition and birdfire on protesters, in addition to beat and arrest them, with a lot of the violence being recorded on video.

Not less than 442 protesters have been killed and greater than 18,000 detained for the reason that unrest started, in accordance with Human Rights Activists in Iran, a bunch that displays protests.

The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to sentence the crackdown and create an unbiased fact-finding mission to analyze alleged abuses, significantly these dedicated towards girls and kids.

Authorities blamed the unrest on hostile international powers, with out offering proof, and say separatists and different armed teams attacked safety forces. Human rights activists in Iran say not less than 57 safety personnel have been killed, whereas state media reported a better toll.

Protesters say they’re fed up after a long time of social and political repression, together with a strict costume code imposed on girls. Younger girls performed a distinguished position within the protests, eradicating the obligatory Islamic headband to precise their rejection of clerical rule.

Some Iranians are actively rooting towards their very own workforce on the World Cup, associating it with leaders they see as violent and corrupt. Others insist the nationwide workforce, which incorporates gamers who’ve spoken out on social media in solidarity with the protests, represents the folks of the nation.

The workforce’s star striker Sardar Azmoun, who has spoken out in regards to the protests on-line, was on the bench within the opening sport. Along with Ghafouri, two different former soccer stars have been arrested for expressing help for the protests.

Different Iranian athletes have additionally been drawn into wrestling.

Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competed with out sporting the obligatory headband at a global competitors in South Korea in October, a transfer extensively seen as expressing her help for the protests. She was welcomed as a hero protesters on her return to Iran, at the same time as she advised state media the transfer was “unintentional” in an interview that would have been given underneath duress.

Earlier this month, Iran’s soccer federation threatened to punish gamers from its seaside soccer workforce after beating Brazil in a global competitors in Dubai. One of many gamers had celebrated after scoring a objective by imitating a protester chopping her hair.

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