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Qatar world cup: Iran team refuses to sing national anthem in support of Mahsa Amini protests

Iran team Captain Ehsan Hajsafi had pledged support for the protests

Iran football team Iran players pose for a team group photo before the match | Reuters

The Iran football team refused to sing the national anthem as it was played ahead of the team's match against England today.

The players stayed silent while the anthem was played at Khalifa International Stadium. Iranian fans who were gathered at the stadium shouted and showed thumbs-down gestures as music was played. 

On the eve of the match, captain Ehsan Hajsafi, who plays in Greece, became the first member of the Iranian team to speak out from the World Cup on the situation at home, saying "we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathise with them.," the Reuters reported quoting the footballer.

Reuters reported that the Iranian state television, during its live broadcast, censored the players lining up before the match as the anthem was played. Players Karim Ansarifard and Morteza Pouraliganji chose not to answer questions on Friday about solidarity with women in Iran, while midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of Dutch club Feyenoord, suggested such questions were a ploy to distract the team. 

In Iran, security forces have violently cracked down on demonstrations triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman allegedly in the custody of morality police who was arrested for not wearing her hijab properly. At least 419 people got killed in the crackdown, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has been monitoring the protests.

The unrest was spurred by the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country's morality police. It first focused on the state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women, but has since morphed into one of the most serious threats to the Islamic Republic since the chaotic years following its founding.

(With inputs from PTI)

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