A man was killed Tuesday night by Iranian security forces while celebrating the Islamic Republic’s defeat to the United States at the World Cup, according to a rights group.
The national soccer team’s loss was cause for either sadness or exuberant joy for Iranians, depending on where they stand on a two-month-old protest movement.
Caught between the clerical regime and calls to show solidarity with protesters, the national team pressed near-relentlessly in the second half on Tuesday night but were unable to cancel out a 38th-minute opener by the US, resulting in an early exit.
That prompted the extraordinary spectacle of Iranians cheering a defeat inflicted by Iran’s arch-enemy, often labeled the “Great Satan.”
In the northern city of Bandar Anzali, Mehran Samak, 27, was fatally struck by a bullet, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights said. Activists cited by the BBC said Samak was shot after honking his horn.
In video from his funeral Wednesday, mourners chanted a slogan regularly heard at the recent protests. “You are the filth, you are immoral, I am a free woman,” they chanted, according to the British broadcaster.
The funeral apparently took place without a burial, as Iran Human Rights said Iranian authorities were refusing to hand over Samak’s body.
"Mehran Sammak", 27 years old, was shot in the head by Islamic Regime’s security forces, tonight (around 1 am local time) in Anzali [Northern Iran], while people were celebrating IR team’s loss against the US.
He died an hour ago in the hospital#MehsaAmini#FIFAWorldCupQatar2022 pic.twitter.com/0bDz7dp9lr
— Pouria Zeraati (@pouriazeraati) November 30, 2022
Celebrations of Iran’s loss were especially marked in the western Kurdistan province, the cradle of a movement sparked by the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody after her arrest for allegedly infringing the nation’s strict dress code for women.
A video shared online by Kurdish activist Kaveh Ghoreishi showed a Sanandaj city neighborhood at night with sounds of cheering and horns blaring after the United States scored.
That goal also prompted joy in Amini’s hometown of Saqez, according to the London-based news website Iran Wire, which published images showing fireworks and sounds of people cheering.
Protesters also set off fireworks in Mahabad, Kurdistan, following Iran’s loss, according to videos shared online, while Norway-based Hengaw human rights group also reported celebrations there and in the city of Marivan.
Kurdish high school students are seen dancing, celebrating the defeat of the Iranian soccer team by the US.
Clerics are petrified by these young kids. #IranRevolution
— Masih Alinejad ????️ (@AlinejadMasih) November 30, 2022
The scenes of joy were not confined to Kurdistan province, reflecting the nationwide nature of the protest movement.
Videos on social media showed citizens celebrating in the capital Tehran and Ardabil, Mashhad, Kerman and Zahedan — many with people dancing and cheering in the streets amid long traffic jams.
It was a very different story in a hall in Tehran, where hundreds gathered to unreservedly cheer on their team — including women, in a country where they often have difficulty accessing stadiums.
“I’m so sad that Iran couldn’t defeat the USA but anyway we are proud of our national team and its players,” said Ali, a retiree. “They did their best and we are not angry with them.”