Voria Ghafouri, a defender for the Khuzestan Foolad soccer team, was also arrested on charges of “dishonourable and insulting behaviour toward Iran’s national soccer team.”
“Ghafouri said some harsh things in support of the recent rioters and was trying to get them to do more,” the state-affiliated Fars News Agency reported.
London-based opposition news outlet Iran International said that the star footballer was fired from his last team, Esteghlal FC, in June because he had criticised the government in May for how it handled protests caused by a sudden rise in prices.
The Iranian government blamed Ghafouri for the protests that happened earlier in the year. The protests were caused by a rise in food prices after the government cut state subsidies, which caused some prices to go up by 300%.
Since then, there have been anti-government protests all over Iran. These were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who was killed in September after being detained by the country’s morality police for not wearing her hijab correctly.
The protests have brought to light the Kurdish minority’s long-standing complaints, which have been targeted by Iran’s security forces as part of a fierce campaign to shut down dissent.
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Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, based in Norway, says that Ghafouri is from Sanandaj, the second largest Kurdish city in Iran.
Ghafouri is the latest Iranian athlete to show support for the national uprising.
According to Tasnim, Parviz Boroumand, who used to be the goalkeeper for Iran’s national team, was arrested last week for destroying public property during a protest in Tehran on November 15.
Boroumand, who is 47 years old, used to play for Persepolis FC and Esteghlal FC before he retired in 2007 to focus on social activism and helping people. Before he was arrested, he showed his support for protesters in Iran on his social media sites.
After Ghafouri and Boroumand were arrested, Ali Karimi posted on Twitter that he supported them. Karimi tweeted on Thursday, “For the honourable Ghafouri,” along with a picture of Ghafouri dressed in Kurdish clothes.
Since late September, the Iranian government has paid much attention to Karimi because he has spoken out in support of protesters. He now lives outside of Iran.
In November, archer Parmida Ghasemi took off her hijab at an awards ceremony in Tehran to show her support for protests against the government. Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian climber, competed in South Korea a month before without her mandatory hijab on. She later said that it had fallen off by accident. But it wasn’t clear whether Rekabi was forced to say what he did.