Mahran Sammak, 27, was shot dead by Iranian security forces after his country celebrated its World Cup elimination. Many Iranians refused to support the national team as part of their protest against the government. And after the loss on Tuesday night, pictures emerged on social media of cheering fans setting off fireworks.
The match between the United States and Iran took place against the backdrop of violent repression in Iran following protests over the killing of Mohsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman. Iranian security forces have already killed at least 448 people in the crackdown on protests, including 60 children under the age of 18 and 29 women, according to human rights groups.
Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezzatullah, who played in the match against the United States, revealed that he knew Samak and posted a picture of the two of them together in a youth soccer team. “After the bitter loss last night, the news of your death caught fire,” Izzatullah said on Instagram.
He did not comment on the circumstances of his friend’s death, but said that one day the masks will fall. “This is not what our youth deserve. This is not what our nation deserves.” Several players also refused to sing their national anthems in the first game as a sign of protest.
“Death to the dictator”
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported that Samak was killed by security forces during the ceremony. The Commonwealth of Human Rights released a video of Samak’s funeral in Tehran on Wednesday in which mourners chanted “Death to the dictator”. The slogan directed at Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of the main slogans of the protests.
There were also protests against the Iranian regime in the Qatar World Cup. Early in the second half, a group of fans in the stadium held up messages reading Mahasa Amini. Security personnel confiscated their plates but allowed them to sit. Outside the stadium after the match, Reuters journalists watched two people being chased by security. Three guards pushed a man wearing a T-shirt to the ground that read “Woman, Life, Freedom,” the central slogan of the Iranian protest movement.
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