Iran protests: UN human rights body votes to investigate Tehran crackdown

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The UN Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn the bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran and create an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly those committed against women and children.

A resolution put forward by Germany and Iceland was backed by 25 countries, including the United States and many European, Latin American, Asian and African nations. Six countries opposed the move – China, Pakistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela and Armenia – while 16 abstained.

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The United Nations’ top human rights official had earlier appealed to Iran’s government to halt the crackdown against protesters, but Tehran’s envoy at a special Human Rights Council on the country’s “deteriorating” rights situation was defiant and unbowed, blasting the initiative as “politically motivated.”

The protests were triggered by the death, more than two months ago, of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police for violating a strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

Thursday’s session in Geneva is the latest international effort to put pressure on Iran over its crackdown, which has already drawn international sanctions and other measures.

Voria Ghafouri of Esteghlal looks on during the Persian Gulf Pro League match between Esteghlal and Padideh FC at Azadi Stadium on June 21, 2021 in Tehran, Iran. The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Ghafouri was arrested Thursday for “insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government.”.

Mohammad Karamali/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Ghafouri, who was not chosen to go to the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities throughout his career. He objected to a longstanding ban on women spectators at men’s soccer matches as well as Iran’s confrontational foreign policy, which has led to crippling Western sanctions.

More recently, he expressed sympathy for the family of a 22-year-old woman whose death while in the custody of Iran’s morality police ignited the latest protests. In recent days he also called for an end to a violent crackdown on protests in Iran’s western Kurdistan region.

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The reports of his arrest came ahead of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. At Iran’s opening match, a 6-2 loss to England, the members of the Iranian national team declined to sing along to their national anthem and some fans expressed support for the protests.

Iranian officials have not said whether Ghafouri’s activism was a factor in not choosing him for the national team. He plays for the Khuzestan Foolad team in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

Some Iranians are actively rooting against their own team at the World Cup, associating it with rulers they view as violent and corrupt. Others insist the national team, which includes players who have spoken out on social media in solidarity with the protests, represents the country’s people.

The team’s star forward, Sardar Azmoun, who has been vocal about the protests online, was on the bench during the opening match. In addition to Ghafouri, two other former soccer stars have been arrested for expressing support for the protests.

Other Iranian athletes have also been drawn into the struggle.

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi competed without wearing the mandatory headscarf at an international competition in South Korea in October, a move widely seen as expressing support for the protests. She received a hero’s welcome from protesters upon returning to Iran, even as she told state media the move was “unintentional” in an interview that may have been given under duress.

Earlier this month, Iran’s football federation threatened to punish players on its beach soccer team after it defeated Brazil at an international competition in Dubai. One of the players had celebrated after scoring a goal by mimicking a female protester cutting off her hair.