At the World Cup, Iranian Players and Fans Made a Bold Statement Against Their Country’s Government

It’s already been a turbulent year for the World Cup, with host nation Qatar facing allegations of corruption and bribery in addition to new scrutiny over its human rights record. But on Monday, a whole new imbroglio unfolded at the tournament when Iranian fans attempting to enter the Iran vs. England match were barred from access unless they surrendered their Persian flags.

The flag of Persia, which predates the 1979 Iranian Revolution, has taken on new meaning given recent protests against Iran’s theocratic regime. In a defiant display on the field, Iranian players also declined to sing their country’s national anthem, while some fans in the stands sang the Persian national anthem instead.

Photo: Getty Images

Later in the match, an even starker display of solidarity took place as Iranian fans raised a flag reading “Woman, Life, Freedom,” which has emerged as a slogan of dissent in Iran.

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It’s unclear whether the Iranian national soccer team or its fans will face consequences of any kind for standing with protestors (the Iranian team ultimately lost to England, 2-6), but it’s hard to imagine these are the last political acts we’ll see coming out of the 2022 World Cup

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