Iran is eliminated by a narrow margin in the first round of the World Cup in Qatar. For many Iranians, this is a reason to celebrate, but the joy in violent times apparently costs at least one person his life.
A man in Iran has been killed after celebrating the Iranian national team's elimination from the World Cup in Qatar, according to human rights groups. The 27-year-old Mehran Samak was "shot in the head by security forces" after the defeat by the United States, the Oslo-based human rights organization Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Wednesday. Several Twitter users write that police officers from the local authorities shot. The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), based in New York, confirmed that Samak was killed by security forces while he was celebrating.
Iran was kicked out of the tournament in Qatar on Tuesday by nemesis USA, which led to disappointed but also happy reactions at home. Many Iranians have refused to support their national team over the violent crackdown on protests that have been going on in the country for the past two months. According to the human rights organizations, Samak celebrated defeat in his car in the town of Bandar Ansali on the Caspian Sea before he was shot.
Iran international Saeid Ezatolahi, who played 90 minutes against the USA and, like the man who was shot, is from Bandar Anzali, wrote on Instagram that he knew Samak from childhood: "After last night's bitter loss, the news of your death set my heart on fire," wrote the 47-time national player about his "childhood teammates". He did not comment on the circumstances of his friend's death, but said: "One day the masks will fall and the truth will come out". He added, "This is not what our youth deserve. This is not what our nation deserves."
During the game, Iranian fans protested inside and outside the stadium against the regime at home. Danish reporter Rasmus Tantholdt published shocking images of injured Iranian fans after the game. They were attacked by Iranian regime thugs under the eyes of the local police.
Late on Tuesday evening, Iranian-exiled journalist Masih Alinejad posted videos of celebrations on Twitter and wrote: "Iran is a country where people have a great passion for football. Now in the city of Sanandaj they are on the streets and partying the loss of their soccer team to the USA."
Iran has been shaken by a nationwide wave of protests since mid-September. The trigger was the death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in police custody - she was arrested by the vice squad because she is said to have worn her headscarf improperly. The authorities are proceeding with unbroken severity against the demonstrators. According to IHR, at least 448 people were killed by security forces, and the military says more than 300 have died. The Iranian national team decided not to sing the anthem before the first World Cup match against England - probably as a sign of solidarity with their protesting compatriots. As a result, family members of the players are said to have been threatened and put under pressure. In the following games, the players moved their lips with visible discomfort at the anthem.
Many Iranians had refused to support the national team because a successful performance in Qatar would have been perceived as a gift from the Iranian authorities.