Iranians call on FIFA to ban Islamic Republic from World Cup next month amid deadly protests

Amid deadly nationwide protests and continual discrimination against women in stadiums, Iranians have called on FIFA to end its "neutrality" on the issue.

 Iranian women attend Iran's World Cup Asian qualifier against Cambodia at the Azadi stadium in Tehran, Iran October 10, 2019 (photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
Iranian women attend Iran's World Cup Asian qualifier against Cambodia at the Azadi stadium in Tehran, Iran October 10, 2019
(photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iranian former soccer players and sports personalities have joined in on a campaign to suspend Iran from competing in the FIFA 2022 World Cup, set to begin next month in Qatar.

Critics of the Islamic Republic, currently in the midst of nationwide riots and protests against the ruling regime, claim that Iranian authorities refused to allow women into soccer stadiums and matches, which goes against FIFA's rules.

"Iran's brutality and belligerence towards its own people have reached a tipping point," the group said in a formal request to world soccer's governing body. "Neutrality from FIFA is not an option."

"Neutrality from FIFA [on Iran] is not an option"

Iranian former soccer players and sports personalities

The Islamic Republic "demands an unequivocal and firm disassociation from the footballing and sports world," the group further argued.

 Iranian women football players stand next to the FIFA World Cup Trophy during an unveiling ceremony in Tehran, Iran September 1, 2022 (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS) Iranian women football players stand next to the FIFA World Cup Trophy during an unveiling ceremony in Tehran, Iran September 1, 2022 (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran's football federation a 'direct threat to female fans'

The group's demand joins another made last month by Open Stadiums, an organization created by Iranian women to end gender discrimination in soccer stadiums.

In a letter sent to FIFA President Gianni Infantino last month, Open Stadiums called the Iranian Football Federation "not only an accomplice of the regime...it is a direct threat to the security of female fans in Iran and wherever our national team plays in the world."

Protests were ignited across Iran after Mahsa Amini, 22 years old, was killed while in the custody of the so-called 'morality police in Tehran.

Islamic Republic pepper-spraying, barring women from games

Open Stadiums have campaigned over the last decade for women to be allowed to attend football matches in Iran, but with only limited success. Under pressure from Infantino, a small group of female fans was granted access to Iranian club Persepolis's home leg of the 2018 Asian Champions League final in Tehran

However, there has been minimal progress since, with female fans barred from entering Iran's World Cup qualifying matches earlier in the year, with video emerging of female supporters being pepper sprayed outside the stadium.

Following outrage over the pepper-spraying of Iranian women, the Iranian federation noted that "tickets purchased by the women had been sold by 'ticket-forgers' or the women did not reveal that they were female when they bought tickets online."

As it stands, Iran is set to face off against England, Wales and the United States in the first round of the World Cup, which kicks off on November 20 in Doha.

Benjamin Weinthal and Reuters contributed to this report.