Friend of Iran midfielder killed by ‘security forces’ for celebrating World Cup loss to US: report

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A 27-year-old Iranian man was reportedly killed by security forces in northern Iran after honking his car horn in celebration of the country’s elimination from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar following its 1-0 loss to the United States. 

Mehran Samak was in Bandar Anzali, northwest of Iran’s capital, Tehran, where human rights activists say he was shot in the head by security forces, according to The Guardian. This comes as many Iranians are protesting the Iranian regime. Samak was one of many across the country who celebrated the loss in the streets.

The death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, has sparked the protests across the country. She was arrested by morality police in Iran for allegedly violating the country’s conservative dress code because she wasn’t wearing a hijab. Amini died while in custody. 

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“Women Life Freedom” has now become the rallying cry, and protests in Iran broadened to Qatar, where tension was seen publicly between activists and those who support the current regime. 

Activists saw the loss to the U.S. as a blow to the government. 

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Samak is also a friend of Iranian midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi, The Guardian reported. 

Ezatolahi went viral after the final match. Pictures showed the United States’ Josh Sargent and DeAndre Yedlin consoling him on the field. Timothy Weah also approached him to share a few words after the victory. 

The next day, Ezatolahi shared an Instagram story of a childhood picture with Samak, saying in Arabic, “After last night’s bitter loss, the news of your passing set fire to my heart.”

He added, “Some day the masks will fall, the truth will be laid bare.” 

Iranian players haven’t had the most joyous time in Qatar. They were reportedly the subject of threats against their families after noticeably remaining silent during the team’s national anthem in their first match against England, which they lost 6-2. 

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Following threats from the government, they did sing the anthem but with stern expressions. They went on to defeat Wales, 2-0, in their second match on Black Friday. 

Extra security was needed outside the stadium prior to their match against the U.S., and The Guardian added that guards would make Iranians unfurl their flags prior to entry. Some flags had the Islamic Republic symbol in the middle, others did not. 

The U.S. team posted social media graphics without the symbol, saying it was “support for women in Iran fighting for basic human rights” but later backtracked due to backlash from supporters of the current regime. 

The U.S. advances to the round of 16, where it faces the Netherlands Saturday, while the Iranian team heads back home where tension between activists and the regime remains high. 

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