Iranian fans wearing the Islamic Republic flag before Iran’s semifinal match against Qatar in Doha, February 7, 2024

Calls To Boycott Iran's Football Team Serving Political Ends

Wednesday, 02/07/2024
Lawdan Bazargan

Lawdan Bazargan is an Iranian political and human rights activist. She campaigns for political prisoners.

Iran's football team, tightly controlled by the government, recently secured a spot in the semi-final round of the Asian Nations Cup with a 2-1 victory over the Japanese team.

While this achievement should have brought joy to Iranians, it has, unfortunately, led to more division and discontent among the people. Many are deeply frustrated that the players appear to be promoting the regime's propaganda and using their social media platforms to also promote the upcoming fraudulent elections and offer their support to entities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Council (IRGC) or the IRI leader.

This situation highlights the growing tension and discontent within the country and emphasizes the need for Iranians to express their grievances through acts of civil disobedience, such as boycotting the team, to send a powerful message to the regime.

In the wake of the tragic death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of security forces in September 2022, a wave of protests swept across Iran, igniting the Woman-Life-Freedom movement.

This movement has been a driving force behind demonstrations, demanding justice and equality in Iran. Mahsa Amini's untimely death has become a symbol of the ongoing struggle for women's rights in the country.

Protesters gather in support of Iranian women and against the death of Mahsa Amini at Callao square in Madrid, Spain, October 1, 2022.

As a revenge for the growing influence of the Woman-Life-Freedom movement and the widespread protests, a wave of executions began. These executions were carried out following hasty trials characterized by human rights organizations as deeply flawed and unjust. These victims stood up for human rights and freedom in Iran and paid a heavy price for their activism.

During the past year, the Woman-Life-Freedom movement in Iran has unleashed a wave of protests. A significant number of individuals who have been executed or are currently facing the threat of execution were arrested during street demonstrations.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the executions as "state murder." Detained activists were denied access to proper legal representation and subjected to torture, extracting confessions under duress. The oppressive tactics serve as a grim reminder of the Islamic government's relentless efforts to silence and intimidate those who dare to raise their voices against injustice. The regime's determination to carry out executions, often kept ambiguous until the last moment, serves to stifle both domestic and international reactions, making it crucial to draw global attention to this humanitarian crisis. The regime has resorted to executions as a scare tactic, creating an atmosphere of fear and terror to suppress any form of dissent.

It is essential to recognize the courage and sacrifice of these individuals who dared to advocate freedom and human rights in Iran. Their plight underscores the urgent need for global solidarity and action in support of human rights and justice in Iran as scores of others are in danger of execution.

Iran's prisons are overflowing with those who dare to dissent, facing terrible conditions and being denied basic human rights. Some have languished behind bars for decades while the regime demands exorbitant bail fees for their release, effectively bankrupting opposition movements. The regime further silences dissent by unjustly imprisoning individuals under bogus charges like "insulting the Prophet" or "spreading propaganda against national security." These unjust incarcerations not only rob individuals of their freedom but also strip away their dignity and fundamental rights.

One of the major obstacles in addressing the violations by Iran's oppressive regime is the support it receives from certain Western governments and institutions. Despite the Islamic regime's discriminatory policies and human rights abuses, some Western entities welcome its officials in various fields, from media to academia and even as advisors. This support raises a moral dilemma – can athletes continue playing under the guise of being "forced to play," thereby avoiding their national responsibility to protect human rights and their people's right to life?

The heart of the matter lies in the realm of morality. Every individual faces choices, especially in times of great historical significance. The philosopher Zygmunt Bauman reminds us that while our destiny may be to act in a particular historical moment not of our choosing, our personality determines our choices among the available options. The focus should not waver from the paramount issue at hand – morality. Are we willing to prioritize morality over politics and sports, relinquishing the comforts of everyday life to forge a meaningful human society, as Václav Havel advocates?

Critics argue that soccer players are merely trying to escape the responsibility of confronting political issues by pleading they are "forced to play." However, history provides a stark example – during the Nazi era, most top officials of the German Football Association did not believe in Nazi ideology but failed to resist the totalitarian regime. They unwittingly supported Hitler's regime and became complicit in its oppressive actions. The monetary loss incurred by not playing is a small price to pay when compared to the sacrifice required to free a nation from religious tyranny.

Championing the team of a regime regularly using violence only aids in perpetuating propaganda that portrays everything as normal. Playing under such circumstances is, in essence, a political act. It involves cooperating with the representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, participating in religious rituals, and receiving awards from individuals complicit in mass repression.

The Islamic regime of Iran operates as a gender apartheid regime, imposing strict segregation between boys and girls from birth and perpetuating gender-based discrimination throughout society. Women are systematically excluded from various aspects of public life, including participation in certain sports and access to sports stadiums. This gender-based discrimination extends to female athletes who face numerous restrictions and are often denied opportunities to compete at an international level.

The regime's oppressive policies not only infringe upon women's rights but also hinder the development of Iranian sports, as talented female athletes are denied the chance to showcase their skills on the world stage. Iranian women cannot leave the country without obtaining permission from their husbands or fathers. This further exemplifies the extent of gender-based discrimination and control imposed by the regime, highlighting the urgent need for Iranians to unite and engage in acts of civil disobedience to challenge these unjust practices.

Boycotting the regime's soccer team serves as a powerful statement against the totalitarian government. It signals that Iranians are willing to put morality first and confront a regime that infringes upon every aspect of their lives. Civil disobedience and mass protests are the keys to challenging the regime's existence, as it would hardly survive without the cooperation of the people.

International sanctions and isolation must be imposed to combat this brutal regime and hold it accountable. Iranians should boycott not only sports but also science, art, theater, music, and cinema produced or supported by the Islamic regime. This echoes the United Nations' call for artists and writers to boycott South Africa during the apartheid era.

Boycotting Iran's soccer team is a call for international recognition and support in isolating the oppressive regime. In the face of overwhelming odds, Iranians are determined to prepare for direct conflict, destabilize the regime, and raise the cost of its crimes. Drawing lessons from history and making ethical choices will free Iran from religious tyranny and create a more meaningful human society.

The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Iran International


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