In surreal sporting news, Iranian soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani is apparently facing possible execution for taking part in a protest for basic women’s rights in Isfahan, Iran. The government deemed the Sept. 16 protest an armed riot as three security agents were killed in the fracas.
FiFPRO, an international soccer association created to support players, issued a statement in support of Nasr-Azadani.
“FIFPRO is shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution in Iran after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country,” the organization’s statement read.
“We stand in solidarity with Amir and call for the immediate removal of his punishment.”
Others have come to the defense of Nasr-Azadani, including former Iranian soccer star Ali Karimi.
“The voice of Amir Nasr Azadani is one of the victims of the power of the child-killing government,” Karimi shared on Twitter. “Don’t execute Amir.”
The first of 28 executions related to the protests for women’s rights took place Thursday. Three of the people in line to be killed are children. Iran was jettisoned from the UN’s organization dedicated to empowering women over the government’s handling of the demonstrations, which included the public hanging of 23-year-old Majidreza Rahnavard from a crane.
Tyrannical regimes love to call any protest that turns violent a riot, as Americans know too well, and just like people classifying Black Lives Matter groups as terrorist organizations, Nasr-Azadani is being lopped in with the rebellion.
Isfahan judiciary chief Abdullah Jafari accused the FC Iranjavan Bushehr player of “rebellion, membership in illegal gangs, collusion to undermine security and therefore assisting in (enmity against God).”
Aside from those accusations serving as more evidence that church and state should always be separate, it’s the exact line of bullshit we’re fed whenever Chinese citizens push back on Xi Jinping and his many overzealous policies.
The backdrop of all this for sports fans, of course, is the World Cup taking place across the Persian Gulf in Qatar. A friend of Iranian national team member Saeid Ezatolahi was killed while celebrating the USMNT’s group stage win over Iran.
The U.S. is far from the good guy, but it’s not so bad that the loss to the Dutch prompted Americans to flood the streets in jubilation. When you write about sports every day, it’s easy to lose track of the power they have and how far a seemingly small gesture — like not singing the Iranian national anthem at the World Cup — can go.
Hopefully, the power of sports can save not only Amir Nasr-Azadani’s life but bring attention to and preserve the lives of the 20-plus non-athletes facing execution for having the courage to speak out for women’s rights and against an oppressive government.