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In apparent protest, Iranian players don’t sing anthem before first World Cup game

Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, November 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Iranian soccer fans hold up signs reading Woman Life Freedom and Freedom For Iran, prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in in Doha, Qatar, November 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Iran’s players did not sing their national anthem before their first game of the World Cup against England, in apparent support for anti-government protesters in their homeland.

Ahead of the game in Qatar, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said the team would decide together whether or not to refuse to sing the anthem in a show of solidarity for demonstrations that have rocked the regime in Iran.

The Iranian players stood impassively and grim-faced as their anthem rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Iranian fans of the team were also heard booing as the anthem was played.

Iran has been shaken by two months of nationwide protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Some Iranian athletes have chosen not to sing the national anthem or celebrate their victories in support of the protesters.

The crackdown since Amini’s death has left nearly 400 people dead, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.

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