Iran's national team wore jackets to cover up their country's symbols before a friendly with Senegal on Tuesday to protest against the brutal repression of women in the Middle East country.
Iran has been engulfed by mass demonstrations in recent days after 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini died in custody while she was being detained by the so-called morality police for breaking the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The growing anger was mirrored on the football stage in Austria when the Iranian players stayed covered up while anthems were played before the start of their friendly international, which was staged at Admira Wacker's ground in Modling. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
England manager Gareth Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland were in the stadium on a scouting mission ahead of their World Cup opener in November 21.
Among the players protesting was Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun, who had earlier expressed solidarity on Instagram with Iranian demonstrators saying: “The ultimate [punishment] is to be kicked out of the national team, which is a small price to pay for even a single strand of Iranian women’s hair. Shame on you for easily killing the people and viva women of Iran. Long live Iranian women!”
Iranian National Football(soccer) team wears all black to cover their country's colors in protest of the death of Mahsa Amini. pic.twitter.com/eicXK2pcJU
— Chris Walker (@WalkerATX) September 27, 2022
The 27-year-old later removed the post. Iranian riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in dozens of cities on Tuesday.
Amini, from the northwestern Kurdish city of Saqez, was arrested on Sept 13 in Tehran for what the morality police deemed to be "unsuitable attire". She died three days later in hospital after falling into a coma, sparking the first big show of opposition on Iran's streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019.
Despite a growing death toll and a fierce crackdown by security forces using teargas, clubs and, in some cases, live ammunition, videos posted on social media showed protesters calling for the fall of the clerical establishment while clashing with security forces in Tehran, Tabriz, Karaj, Qom, Yazd and many other Iranian cities.
State media branded the protesters "hypocrites, rioters, thugs and seditionists", while state television said police clashed with "rioters" in some cities and fired tear gas to disperse them.
Videos posted on social media from inside Iran showed protesters chanting, "Woman, Life, Liberty", while women waved and burnt their veils and cut off their hair.
Videos on Twitter showed protesters chanting "Death to the dictator", a reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj and Sardasht, riot police fired at protesters, Twitter videos showed.
"I will kill those who killed my sister," chanted protesters in one of the videos from Tehran, while activist Twitter account 1500tasvir said: "The streets have become battlefields".
Further videos on social media showed protests continuing in dozens of cities after nightfall on Tuesday. "Continuing shootings can be heard in Chabahar, Sistan and Baluchestan (province)," 1500tasvir said on Twitter.
Over 300 Iranian Christians issued a statement supporting the nationwide protests.
To make it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media, authorities have restricted internet access in several provinces, according to Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks on Twitter and sources in Iran.