Washington, DC — As the Iranian national football team prepares to head to Qatar amid ongoing, nationwide pro-democracy protests in the country NUFDI is calling on FIFA to protect players’ and fans’ right to protest and show solidarity with the Iranian people and their protests. The letter to Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, reads in part:

“We call upon FIFA to honor the right of all fans and national team players and staff to demonstrate their solidarity with the Iranian people, such as through chants, placards, symbolic acts of resistance and other forms of expression, including the carrying of the national flag of Iran instead of the flag of the Regime.”

NUFDI, referring to the Islamic Republic’s long history of attempt to hijack sports for its own political purposes said: “The Regime is guilty of banning football, of denying women entry into stadiums, of exploiting, harassing, intimidating and detaining footballers, of subjugating the sport to political control…” and called on FIFA to abide by its obligations at a time of “heightened risk that, both during and in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup, the Regime may target fans, journalists and national football team players and staff for harassment, intimidation and retribution.”

Read the full letter, below. For press inquiries contact press@nufdiran.org.

Dear Mr. Infantino:

For nearly two months now, the Iranian people have been engaged in nationwide peaceful protests and non-violent acts of resistance against the Islamic Republic regime (the “Regime”), continuing an almost 44-year-old struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran.  Their uprising has been answered with unbridled violence, as many thousands of Iranians have been beaten, detained, tortured and killed by the Regime across the country.  In this context, we write to convey our concerns regarding the 2022 World Cup given the expected participation of the Iranian national football team.  

The beautiful game is made beautiful by the players and the nations that love and sustain it.  For more than 43 years, however, just as the Regime has oppressed the Iranian people, it has stifled and poisoned the realm of athletics in Iran, particularly the game of football.  The Regime is guilty of banning football, of denying women entry into stadiums, of exploiting, harassing, intimidating and detaining footballers, of subjugating the sport to political control and, most recently, of suspending fan attendance at all football games for political reasons.  In light of current developments in Iran, including the detention of prominent football players and sports journalists, FIFA must be aware of the heightened risk that, both during and in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup, the Regime may target fans, journalists and national football team players and staff for harassment, intimidation and retribution.  

Accordingly, and with consideration to FIFA’s rule against government and political interference in football, for the 2022 World Cup, we call upon FIFA to honor the right of all fans and national team players and staff to demonstrate their solidarity with the Iranian people, such as through chants, placards, symbolic acts of resistance and other forms of expression, including the carrying of the national flag of Iran instead of the flag of the Regime.  We also call upon FIFA to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and security of fans and journalists, and particularly Iranian-American, American and Iranian fans and journalists, as well as Iranian national team players and staff in Qatar, including measures to protect journalists against harassment by the Regime for news reporting activities and to protect fans and Iranian national football team players and staff against retribution by the Regime for demonstrations of support for the Iranian people. 

 

FIFA’s pledge of loyalty is to the sport and not to politics.  As such, its duty is to the Iranian people and their footballing representatives and not to the Regime.  On behalf of Iranian-Americans, we hope that, at this historic time for the Iranian nation, FIFA will not betray its mission by betraying the Iranian people and standing with their oppressors.  

Sincerely, 

Navid Mohebbi

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