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Iranian footballer mimes hanging gesture to protest executions

Meysam Tohidast mimes hanging gesture, photo by Iran International English.

Another Iranian footballer is courageously sounding the alarm on Iran’s executions of protesters. Rather than celebrating his goal, the football player, Meysam Tohidast, mimed a gesture of hanging himself after scoring at the Tehran Derby, to protest the executions.

Iran International English yesterday tweeted video footage of Tohidast putting one hand around his neck, while making a fist above his head with his other hand.

Iran’s latest uprising began after the country’s so-called “morality police” brutally killed a young girl, Mahsa Amini, for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly. Since then, rage has spread like wildfire throughout the country ruled by a theocratic dictatorship. The situation has been brutal, with at least 506 people killed as of Tuesday. A growing number of people have been formally executed in relation to the protests so far.

One young man executed last week was 23 year old Majidreza Rahnavard. Rahnavard was accused of killing two Basij members. Just days before that, Iran executed another 23 year old man, Mohsen Shekari. Shekari was accused of injuring a security guard with a knife in Tehran.

Tohidast is the latest of several Iranian football players to take a stand against the Islamic Republic’s brutality. Many players have paid a high price for their statements of solidarity with the protesters.

One of the first major statements from Iranian football players came at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Iran’s national football team declined to sing Iran’s national anthem at the Cup, in a display of solidarity with their fellow countrymen.

Iranian authorities later threatened the players’ families with imprisonment and torture, according to a source involved in the security of the games.

Last month, Iranian authorities arrested a former member of the national team. Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national soccer team and propagandising against the government,” Iranian media reported.

Ghafouri, who was not chosen to go to the World Cup, is a member of Iran’s Kurdish ethnic minority. He had recently called for an end to the violent suppression of protests in Kurdish areas. Ghafouri was later released on bail.

Another Iranian football player, 26 year old Amir Nasr-Azadani, is on death row. He is accused of being involved in the murders of three members of Iran’s forces. However, sources for IranWire, a pro-opposition outlet, said that Nasr-Azadani was never in the area where the authorities were killed. He was only present in some protests, the outlet said. Nasr-Azadani is accused of “waging war against God.”

Time will tell when the Iranian people are able to topple their regime.

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.