Iranians boo their national anthem and demand ‘freedom’ for women at opening World Cup match against England

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Iranians have booed their country’s national anthem at the team’s opening Fifa World Cup match against England, as protesters opposing Iran’s hardline clerical regime demanded “freedom” for women.

Demonstrators were pictured in the stands at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium on Monday, holding banners and wearing T-shirts reading “women, life, freedom”.

The placards bore the colours of the Iranian flag, with at least one rendered to appear drenched in blood – echoing the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of morality police and the brutal repression of the protests that have since swept the nation in response.


One woman demonstrating at the football match in Qatar appeared to be holding a banner featuring the faces of young people killed in the demonstrations – which pose perhaps the greatest threat to the Iranian regime since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The protests came as England and Wales capitulated to Fifa in dropping plans to wear rainbow-coloured OneLove armbands in support of the LGBT+ community, over fears that captains Harry Kane and Gareth Bale could be booked for wearing them.

The spotlight on the human cost of Qatar’s hosting of the tournament has only increased in recent weeks, with Doha’s discrimination against LGBT+ people and the deaths of migrant workers involved in building facilities for the event casting a long shadow over the sport itself.

Among those to unwillingly give their lives to the tournament was 40-year-old Briton, Zac Cox, who fell 40 metres to his death while working on the construction of the Khalifa Stadium, where Gareth Southgate’s side kicked off their campaign on Monday.

Regardless of the FA’s decision earlier in the day, BBC presenter Alex Scott was seen on the sidelines wearing the OneLove armband, while at least one England fan was pictured in the stands wearing a T-shirt depicting the three lions in rainbow colours.

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