Iranian Kurdish football player arrested after speaking out

Iranian authorities arrested a former member of the country’s national football team on November 24. 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 recently called for an end to the violent suppression of protests in Kurdish areas.

Ghafouri had also expressed sympathy for the family of Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old woman killed by Iran’s so-called “morality police” after she allegedly wore her headscarf improperly. Amini was also a Kurd, and her murder has sparked mass protests for women’s and Kurdish rights in Iran, as well as for individual freedoms.

Iranian officials have not said whether Ghafouri’s activism was a factor in not choosing him for the national team.

According to the pro-opposition news outlet Iran International, it appeared that Ghafouri’s Instagram story about the national team with the caption “Shameless, Shameless” was taken as an insult by Iranian officials. The outlet noted, however, that Iranian media did not provide clear details on what Ghafouri had said that was insulting.

Iranian footballers have been in the spotlight lately. Last week, Iran’s national football team declined to sing its national anthem at the FIFA World Cup in a move that appears to be a display of solidarity with their fellow countrymen protesting.

Before the match against England, the Iranian players stood silent as their national anthem was played before the game kicked off.

The team’s captain made another statement of solidarity with protesters at the cup, saying…

“I want to say condolences to all the grieving families in Iran… we want them to know we are with them and by their side and share their pain.”

Some Iranians criticized the team’s actions as “too little, too late,” saying the team should have refused to play at the World Cup altogether. Iranian-British comedian Omid Djalili noted that the players had “bowed to the terrorists” when they met with Iranian President Raisi.

Time will tell what Voria Ghafouri’s fate will be.

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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.

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