Famous Iranian soccer player was arrested on Thursday for destroying the reputation of the country’s national team for spreading propaganda against the state.
Voria Ghafouri, is a former member of Iran’s national squad and a frequent critic of the government. His arrest occurred at a moment in which Iranian soccer players are under close scrutiny for their statements about a nationwide uprising in Iran that has continued for months.
A Protest in Iran began in September after a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. The uprising against Iran’s clerical leadership has spread across the country and sparked a fierce crackdown including in ethnic Kurdish areas, where human rights groups say dozens of people have been killed in recent days.
He recently tweeted: “Stop killing Kurdish people!!! Kurds are Iran itself … Killing Kurds is equal to killing Iran. If you are indifferent to the killing of people, you are not an Iranian and you are not even a human being … All tribes are from Iran. Do not kill people!!!”
After another incident of violence against female football fans in 2021, Ghafouri wrote on Instagram: “As a soccer player, I’ve indeed become humiliated when I play in an era when our mothers and sisters are prohibited from entering stadiums.”
He has been called up to play several times over the last decade on the national team, and played for several Iranian club teams including Foolad Khuzestan. It was recently reported that the CEO of the team,Hamidreza GarshasbiI had resigned, although reason for resignation hasn’t been disclosed.
Even before the start of the World Cup, some Iranians had called for FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, to ban the national team, known as Team Melli, as a sign of support for the protests.
The Kurdish player has however criticized government officials on social media both in the past and recently and has posted messages on Twitter condemning the killing of Kurds. Iranian did not specify the reasons for his arrest but said the charges included “spreading propaganda against” the Islamic Republic.
Iran is set to play Wales on Friday.