Protesters in Iranian Kurdistan let off fireworks and celebrated after Iran lost to arch foe the United States in the World Cup on Tuesday, according to social media videos. The Islamic republic has deployed state security forces against what it labels “riots” that broke out after 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died on September 16, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s dress code for women.
Her hometown of Saqez, as well as other cities in the western province of Kurdistan, have been a flashpoint for protests against the clerical rule. “Saqez citizens have started to celebrate and use fireworks after America’s first goal against Iran’s football team,” said the London-based Iran Wire website on Twitter. It shared a video showing fireworks with sounds of cheering in the background. AFP could not immediately verify the content.
Another video by Kurdish activist Kaveh Ghoreishi showed a neighbourhood at night in Sanandaj city with sounds of cheering and horns blaring after the United States scored what was the only goal of the match. Fireworks were also used in Mahabad, another city in Kurdistan, following Iran’s loss, according to videos shared online. The Norway-based Hengaw human rights group said Iranian motorists celebrated the US victory by honking their horns in Mahabad.
It said fireworks also lit up the sky in Marivan, another city in Kurdistan province where security forces have waged a deadly crackdown on the protests. Fireworks and cheering were also heard in Paveh and Sarpol-e Zahab, in Kermanshah province, it added. The Iranian national team had faced a double whammy of government and public pressure following the protests, with some Iranians going as far as rooting for the opposing teams.
“Who would’ve ever thought I’d jump three meters and celebrate America’s goal!” tweeted Iranian game journalist Saeed Zafarany after the loss. Podcaster Elahe Khosravi also tweeted: “This is what playing in the middle gets you. They lost to the people, the opponent, and even” the government. “They lost. Both on and off the pitch,” tweeted Iran-based journalist Amir Ebtehaj. The US victory sent Iran out of the World Cup and ensured the Islamic republic’s arch enemy a place in the knockout phase of the tournament in Qatar. “And the Islamic republic football team’s circus is over,” tweeted former journalist Hamid Jafari.
“Now the news of oppression can’t be hidden behind the win or loss of the security forces’ favourite team,” he wrote, referring to videos of the Iranian police celebrating the team’s previous win against Wales while deployed in the streets. Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says at least 448 people have been killed by Iran’s security forces in the crackdown on more than two months of protests.
Meanwhile, there were reportedly some violent clashes between two different factions of Iranian supporters outside the stadium following the national side’s 1-0 loss at the hands of USA in Qatar. Two fans wearing t-shirts backing the protest movement in Iran seemed to be attacked by pro-government supporters, which led to the Qatari police preventing journalists from filming the videos.