Social media shows Iranian water polo players failing to sing national anthem, seen as support for protests

  • Deputy minister says athletes have apologized for their actions
  • Athletes do not sing the national anthem
  • Pro-government Iranians call for firmness

DUBAI, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Video clips allegedly showing Iran’s water polo team failing to sing the national anthem during a competition in Thailand have emerged on social media in what the movement of anti-government protest sees as the latest show of solidarity from athletes. .

The video was shared online by many ordinary Iranian Twitter users. It showed the men’s team not singing as Iran’s national anthem played during an Asian Championship game against India in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Reuters could not verify the video clips and the Iranian Swimming, Diving and Water Polo Federation was unavailable for comment.

Iran’s Deputy Sports Minister Maryam Kazemipour said on Wednesday that some Iranian female athletes had acted against Islamic norms and then apologized for their actions, the state news agency reported.

Social media users saw the refusal to sing as a show of support for the eight-week-old protests, one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s religious leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“One of the most radical acts of the Iranian national water polo team. We know sports teams that have sided with the people and we appreciate your support,” said an unverified Twitter user.

Anti-government protests erupted in September after the death of a Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by vice squad for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

The protests quickly turned into a popular revolt, with people ranging from students and doctors to lawyers, workers and athletes.

The Basij militia and other security forces have cracked down harshly on the unrest, but protesters are sticking to their demand to end the hardline Islamist rule under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On Wednesday, shopkeepers in some Kurdish towns went on strike to show their respect for dozens of people who were killed in the town of Zahedan on September 30, Kurdish rights group Hengaw said.

Amnesty International said security forces killed at least 66 people there. Authorities in Zahedan have sacked the chief of police and the head of a police station near where the killings took place.

Shopkeepers in Valiasr township in Tehran province also closed their businesses to mark the 40th day since the killings, according to the HRANA news agency.


The behavior of the water polo team was not the first time that Iranian sportsmen took actions considered as gestures of support for the demonstrations.

Last week, players from the national beach soccer team refused to sing the Iranian anthem at the start of a match against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, according to a widely followed activist Twitter account known as 1500TASVIR.

Then on Sunday, the players didn’t cheer or celebrate after beating Brazil to win the championship, the account said.

An Iranian player celebrated his goal by pretending to cut his hair, a gesture of protest by Iranian women, who have been at the forefront of the protests.

Iran’s Beach Soccer Federation said on Monday that the players’ actions were “reckless”.

Another Twitter user, identified on the site as Mehdi Andarziyan, a student, chastised authorities for not quickly stifling dissent, saying:

“Mr Minister of Sports, if you had slapped the beach footballers, the water polo players would not have disrespected the anthem of the Islamic Republic!”

On Sunday, skater Niloufar Mardani performed without a headscarf at a competition in Turkey. She then posted a video shared on Telegram accounts, which Reuters could not verify, which shows her apologizing.

The footage explains that she participated independently in Turkey in the skating tournament and did not see that her veil had fallen off when she took off her helmet.

Mardani said her story was manipulated by “foreign media”.

Iran’s sports ministry said Mardani did not get permission to attend the event in Turkey. He criticized his action and said he had not been part of the national team since last month.

The militant HRANA news agency said 321 protesters were killed in the unrest on Monday, including 50 children. State media said last month that more than 46 members of the security forces had been killed.

Written by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel and Angus MacSwan

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