Going Deep with Donnovan Bennett: World Cup protests make difference in Iran

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup has been especially embroiled in political controversy for its host country’s record on human rights. However, much of the recent conversation that has come to the forefront in recent weeks surrounds not Qatar, but Iran.

Through demonstrations by the Iranian national soccer team and fans at the World Cup, the ongoing protests stemming from the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died while in custody of Iran’s morality police, have been put under an international spotlight.

On Tuesday, Anna, a member of the Women for Liberty of Iran advocacy group who didn’t want to provide her last name because of concerns for her safety, discussed the conditions in Iran and how the World Cup has raised awareness in an interview on Going Deep with Donnovan Bennett.

“The World Cup was at such a critical time for us,” said Anna. “This is while women, children, men are being killed on daily basis … and the World Cup was an opportunity to get the word out to condemn the regime.”

Before the Iranian national team’s opening match against England on Nov. 21, players demonstrated support by refusing to sing their national anthem.

For Anna, however, this action – coming after the team got cozy with the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi – was not nearly sufficient.

“People decided that whatever happens in the World Cup, unless [the team] actually clearly condemned the regime and supported Iranian people, nothing is going to mean anything to them anymore in terms of the team,” she said.

“For the people who are suffering, who are being massacred, who are being tortured, just not singing the national anthem was not enough – nowhere near enough.”

Firoozeh Radjai of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Toronto also joined Going Deep to discuss how soccer fans have shown support.

“YWCA wanted to help spread that message in a way that couldn’t be censored and couldn’t be ignored, which is through chanting through human voice,” said Radjai, the director of philanthropy with the YWCA. “It’s an effort to galvanize soccer fans and show the Iranian fans that their protests and their revolution isn’t in isolation.

“To me, hope is a moral imperative – I think this is one of the most hopeful moments in history,” she continued. “Despite its brutality, despite the suffering of the women and all the other people in Iran who are being clobbered, tortured and killed every day in Iran these days, I am hopeful.”

Listen to Going Deep with Donnovan Bennett Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. – noon ET / 8-9 a.m. PT – on the Sportsnet Radio Network. Find more episodes and subscribe here.

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