the main points
- A former member of Iran’s national football team has been arrested after training.
- The demonstrations erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini.
- Iranian authorities have become more stringent in their response to the protests.
An outspoken Iranian Kurdish soccer player was arrested on Thursday, the same day the United Nations Human Rights Council pledged a high-profile investigation into Iran’s deadly crackdown on demonstrations.
Nationwide protests erupted after the death in custody in September of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.
The demonstrations swelled into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979.
The official Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency reported that Foria Ghafouri, a former member of Iran’s national football team, was arrested on charges of “insulting the national team” and “propaganda against the regime”.
No further details were released about the allegations against Ghafouri.
Al-Ghafouri, who played 28 matches with the Iran national team, was arrested after a training session with the Foolad Khuzestan Football Club.
When Iran lined up for its first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Monday, players chose not to sing the national anthem at the start of the match; Instead, he remained silent in what appeared to be a signal of support for the protesters at home.
Captain Ehsan Hajsefi also spoke publicly on the matter, saying, “We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy.”
Despite intense pressure from Tehran and last-minute efforts by China to undermine the Human Rights Council resolution, a wider-than-expected majority in the 47-member council supported launching an investigation into Iran’s response to the ongoing protests.
A standing ovation erupted as the resolution was passed by 25 votes in favour, 16 abstentions and only six countries opposed – Armenia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan and Venezuela.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the vote, saying it showed that the UN’s top human rights body “recognizes the seriousness of the situation in Iran”.
“The fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those involved in the ongoing violent oppression of the Iranian people are identified and their actions are documented,” he said in a statement.
The vote came at the end of an urgent session requested by Germany and Iceland, with the support of 50 countries, to discuss the situation in Iran, which has been rocked by protests that lasted two months.
Iranian authorities have become increasingly hardline in their response to the demonstrations as they spread across the country and spread into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979.
During Thursday’s session, UN Human Rights Coordinator Volker Turk insisted that “the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must end.”
Turk, who told reporters he had offered to visit Iran but received no response from Tehran, said more than 300 people have been killed since Amini’s death.
Iranians around the world have raised awareness of the ongoing uprising in their homeland. source: aap / Palestinian Authority
The Norway-based Iranian Human Rights Organization estimated the death toll at more than 400, including more than 50 children.
He said that some 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested because of the protests, which he described as an “amazing number”, and decried the fact that at least six death sentences had been imposed on the protesters.
A long line of Western diplomats took the floor in Geneva on Thursday to denounce repression in Iran.
German Foreign Minister Analina Berbock called on all countries to support the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations linked to the ongoing protests, to ensure that “those responsible can be held accountable.”
“Impunity prevents justice. Justice is for sisters, sons and mothers. They have names. Gina, Abu al-Fadl and Mino,” she said, referring to a number of those killed.
She told reporters the investigation would gather evidence in order to hold the perpetrators to account – though it was still unclear under what jurisdiction they would be tried.
“If we don’t collect evidence today… there will be no justice for the victims,” said Ms. Burbock.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Thords Kolbrunn Rickfjord Gilvadottir agreed, telling reporters that the council’s vote was “about respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Dozens protested outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, waving the flags that were used in Iran before the 1979 revolution, amid pictures of alleged victims of the Iranian regime.
The organizers of that demonstration, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, hailed Thursday’s vote as a “positive and important step,” and insisted that “the culture of impunity must end.”
Rights groups also celebrated the vote, with Amnesty International describing it as “historic”, while Human Rights Watch said it was a “welcome step towards accountability”.
But Iran denounced the Western countries behind Thursday’s meeting. Khadija Karimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for women and family affairs, said that Europe and the United States “lack moral credibility for preaching…on human rights.”
Deputy Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Khadija Karimi spoke at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. source: aap / Environmental Protection Agency
“Reducing the common cause of human rights to a tool for the political purposes of certain groups of Western countries is appalling and shameful,” she added.
Iran has received support from some countries, with Pakistan, Venezuela and others deploring the council’s increasing politicization, and China’s ambassador Chen Xu warning against “turning human rights into a tool to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs”.
China also made a last-minute attempt to change the text of Thursday’s resolution, demanding that the request for an investigation be revoked. Only six countries supported this effort.