Iran’s team sang the national anthem before Friday’s World Cup match against Wales, having opted not to do so in their tournament opener in Qatar.
But fans booed and whistled throughout the anthem, with some in tears. Earlier, fans protesting against the Iranian government clashed with pro-government supporters outside the stadium.
The Iranian players had stood impassive during their anthem before their 6-2 defeat to England on Monday in an apparent gesture of solidarity with anti-government protesters in the Islamic republic, something which drew a fierce response from government officials in Iran.
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Mehdi Chamran, chairman of Tehran city council, said: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag. Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as the total of European and American civilizations.”
And on Thursday, famous former footballer Voria Ghafouri was arrested in Iran after making social media posts calling on the government to stop killing Kurdish people, with his arrest widely viewed as a warning to the international team not to protest again.
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But Iran forward Mehdi Taremi denied on Thursday that his team had come “under pressure” from their government to sing the anthem at the World Cup.
“I don’t like to talk about political issues, but we are not under any pressure,” Taremi said on the eve of the Wales game.
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An AFP photographer at the stadium on Friday witnessed security staff confiscating a flag from a fan with the protest slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
According to AP, rival groups outside the stadium shouted opposing chants at each other: “Women, Life, Freedom” and “The Islamic Republic.”
AP reports that some Iranian fans confiscated Persian pre-revolutionary Iranian flags from supporters, while others filmed and harassed women who were being interviewed about the protests.
Inside the stadium, some Iranian fans were in tears during the singing of the anthem. There were also widespread boos and jeers.
Iran has been shaken by two months of nationwide protests since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.
The crackdown since Amini’s death has left at least 400 people dead, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The state’s response has led to questions about whether the team represents Iran or the regime that has ruled with an iron fist since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.