Iranian footballer Voria Ghafouri arrested during World Cup investigation

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A prominent Iranian footballer was arrested Thursday on charges including destroying the reputation of the country’s national team, which is participating in the World Cup, Iranian state media reported Thursday.

The player, Voria Ghafouri, is a former member of the Iranian national team and a frequent critic of the government. His arrest came at a time when Iranian footballers are under scrutiny for their statements about a nationwide uprising in Iran that has been going on for months.

The Iranian World Cup team quietly nods to the protests in their own country

Iran’s national team refused to sing the country’s national anthem during a match against England on Monday, in what was widely seen as a silent acknowledgment of the protests. Iran’s national broadcaster showed selected footage of spectators cheering for Iran during the match, but not the political signs worn by some.

The protest in Iran began in September after a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. The uprising against Iran’s ecclesiastical leadership has spread across the country, sparking fierce and deadly repression, including in ethnic Kurdish areas, where dozens of people have been killed in recent days, according to human rights groups.

The UN Human Rights Council in a to vote on Thursday launched an investigation into alleged rights violations in Iran’s response to the protest movement. ‚ÄúToday’s session leaves no doubt that the members of the HRC recognize the gravity of the situation in Iran, and the fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those involved in the ongoing violent oppression of the Iranian people are identified and their actions are documented,” the US said. This is what State Secretary Antony Blinken says in a statement.

Human rights groups say Iran is escalating its crackdown on Kurdish areas

Ghafouri, who is Kurdish, has criticized government officials on social media in the past and recently posted messages on Twitter condemning the killing of Kurds. Iranian news reports did not specify the reasons for his arrest, but said the charges included “spreading propaganda against” the Islamic republic.

He has been called up to the national team several times in the past ten years and has played for several Iranian club teams, including Foolad Khuzestan, his current side. ISNA, a semi-official news agency, reported on Thursday that Hamidreza Garshasbi, the team’s CEO, had resigned, saying the reason for his resignation had not yet been disclosed.

Even before the start of the World Cup, some Iranians had called on FIFA, the global governing body for football, to ban the national team known as Team Melli as a sign of support for the protests. Others argued that Iran’s attendance at the World Cup was a boon to the uprising: a high-profile event that gave players and spectators a chance to voice dissent, while the international media watched.

Iran will play against Wales on Friday.

World Cup in Qatar

Live Updates: The last eight teams to make their debut in Qatar will take the field in Group G and Group H games on Thursday. Follow along for the latest news, updates and highlights.

USMT: On their return to the World Cup, the young Americans settled for a 1-1 draw against Wales in their Group B opener. The US men’s national team faces a bigger task on Friday against Group B favorites England, who beat Iran 6-2 earlier on Monday.

Qatar controversy: Soccer fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusion, have said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and were called upon by the public to remove the decal.

Guide for groups: The US national soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star striker Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement on the disastrous and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s an up-close look at how all the teams in each group are doing.

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