Iran vs England: some footballers are more courageous than others...
At least Fifa’s festival of hypocrisy and super-profiteering in Qatar meant that the Iranian regime’s slaughter of women’s rights protesters and its brutal crackdown in Iran’s Kurdish towns got headline news coverage.
By the luck of the draw, Iran’s football team faced the England team, so their firmly shut mouths and grim faces during the playing of the Iranian national anthem was live on world TV. But when/if they return to Iran (other top Iranian footballers are already in exile), it could mean a jail sentence or worse.
So yes, these young Iranians are brave. In very stark contrast to the “courage” shown by English and Welsh team captains who promptly abandoned their armband “protest” to show they disapproved of Qatar’s attitude to sexual diversity, as soon as they were told it might result in a yellow card...
As for sexual rights, it’s worth pointing out that in Qatar all women are 2nd class citizens, subservient to men in every respect; they must have a male guardian’s permission to marry, study abroad, work in certain jobs, or even get health care. They’re not even their own children’s “primary guardian”! So there may not be murderous morality police patrolling the streets of Qatar to check on their hijabs, as happens in Iran, but no way are they free and equal citizens. It’s the same, or worse, in the other Gulf States, but that’s never prevented British governments from locating military bases on their soil and selling them arms, nor stopped Fifa bosses or Charles 3rd from being their best mates.
While a football was being kicked around Qatar’s Khalifa stadium on Monday, Iranian security forces were firing into a crowd of mourners and protesters attending the funeral of two anti-regime demonstrators, who’d been shot dead just the day before.
The slogans on everyone’s lips and written on every available space are “death to the dictator”; “down with the regime”! Oil workers, teachers, textile workers, Bazaaris and more - right across the country - have been taking strike action; universities have become no-go zones for the police and women and girls have thrown off their hair-coverings, regardless of the risk of arrest and imprisonment, or torture and execution.
Human Rights Activists in Iran report that at least 426 people have been killed, 47 of them children, and over 17,400 arrested during protests. Many - including teenagers - may now face the death penalty. According to the US news channel, CNN, Iran’s judiciary sentenced a sixth person to death this Sunday for participating in the protests - in this case, a demonstrator who blocked traffic during a recent protest on Tehran’s Sattar Khan Street.
Nevertheless the spirit of the huge number of people demanding an end to this brutal, backward, anti-women, religious dictatorship has not been quelled so far. And while this revolt looks in many ways like the early days of the 1979 revolution which overthrew the US puppet Reza Shah - but then got hijacked by Khomeini’s fundamentalist regime - it can be hoped that this time round, the harsh lessons of the past have been learnt.