The former national team player has been accused of ‘spreading propaganda’ as authorities continue to crack down on anti-government protests.
Iranian security forces have arrested popular footballer Voria Ghafouri on charges of “tarnishing the reputation of the national team” and spreading “propaganda” against Iran.
Ghafouri, who is of Kurdish descent and has strongly supported the protests that have rocked the country since September, was arrested Thursday after a club training session, Fars news agency reported.
Ghafouri has represented Iran’s national football team in the past but was not called up for this year’s World Cup in Qatar, where the national team refrained from singing the national anthem in their first game against England on Monday.
Ghafouri, who has played for Esteghlal, one of Iran’s biggest clubs, is one of the most prominent figures arrested in a large-scale crackdown on protesters, including in the Western Kurdish areas where he comes from. Human rights groups say dozens have been killed in recent times. week alone.
Iran has seen more than two months of demonstrations sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, herself of Kurdish descent, after she was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
On his social media accounts, Ghafouri had strongly supported the protests, reporting that he visited Kurdish-populated areas in western Iran to express solidarity with the families of those killed in the protests.
Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw, based in Norway, also said he was arrested and shared an Instagram photo the player posted of himself in traditional Kurdish clothing.
Soccer player Voria Ghafouri, from Sanandaj and a former member of the Iran national team who now plays for Foolad FC, was kidnapped by Iranian government authorities.
Thursday, November 24, 2022#JinaAmini pic.twitter.com/4atp80DBup
— Hengaw Human Rights Organization (@Hengaw_English) November 24, 2022
Ghafouri received particular praise for visiting the young daughter of a woman who had died during the protests and gifting her a tablet.
Former Iranian international footballer Ali Karimi, another outspoken supporter of the protests, also posted the same photo of Ghafouri in Kurdish clothing on his Twitter account in support of the player.
“For the dear Voria,” he wrote.
Ghafouri was formerly the captain of Esteghlal before his contract was terminated and he moved to Foolad Khuzestan.