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Iran arrests footballer Ghafouri after he backed protests

November 24, 2022

Voria Ghafouri faces accusations of spreading "propaganda" against the Islamic Republic. The football star has been a vocal critic of the Iranian government.

A file photo of Voria Ghafouri during a Champions League match
Voria Ghafouri was arrested after a training session with his club Foolad Khuzestan Image: AFP

Iranian police arrested the former international football player Voria Ghafouri, who backed the ongoing protests against Iran's regime, state media reported on Thursday.

Ghafouri, a player of Kurdish origin, is one of Iran's most prominent footballers. However, he was not chosen to go to the World Cup in Qatar this year. 

His arrest comes amid scrutiny of the conduct of Iran's national team in Qatar, where they refused to sing the national anthem in solidarity with anti-government protests.

The government has launched a violent crackdown on the demonstrations that have rocked Iran for the past two months. 

UN condemns harsh response to Iran protests

Why was Voria Ghafouri arrested?

According to Iranian state news agencies, Ghafouri was detained on charges of having "tarnished the reputation of the national team and spread propaganda against the state."

He was arrested after a training session with his club Foolad Khuzestan.

Ghafouri has been a vocal critic of Iranian authorities throughout his career.

Notably, the athlete has long objected a ban on women spectators at men's football matches, in addition to criticizing Tehran's foreign policy. 

He recently called for an end to a crackdown on demonstrations in Iran's western Kurdistan region.

Ghafouri also expressed sympathy for the family of Jina Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in the custody of Iran's notorious morality police ignited the latest wave of protests.

Have the Iran protests had an impact?

fb/dj (AFP, AP)