The soccer world is in adoration of Lionel Messi right now after his inspirational efforts to help Argentina win its first World Cup in 36 years, following Sunday’s final in Qatar. But in another part of the Middle East, a darker story involving a soccer player is unfolding.

Amir Nasr-Azadani, 26, who plays in Iran, is facing possible execution after he participated in a demonstration for Iranian women’s rights. The decision in his case drew worldwide condemnation in addition to global support for similar protests, which followed the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in September. She was allegedly beaten severely by Iran’s morality police after she was arrested for an alleged hijab-wearing violation. The beatings are believed to have caused her fatal head injury, although Iranian authorities have denied that accusation.

Who Is Amir Nasr-Azadani?

Nasr-Azadani has been a professional soccer player since 2015, playing three seasons in the Persian Gulf Pro League until 2018.

In the final two years of that time, he played with Iran’s Tractor Cultural Sports Economic Club as a defender. Before that, he played for Sepahan S.C., another Iranian team, from 2012 to 2015 during his youth league career.

What Has Amir Nasr-Azadani been accused of?

Nasr-Azadani was arrested because of his participation in a women’s rights demonstration in which three security agents died. The September 16 protest was decried by the Iranian government, which called it an “armed riot,” according to the sports blog Deadspin.

The Iranian player also faces allegations of “waging war against God” and is reportedly set to be hanged.

The protests over Amini have involved women publicly burning their hijabs (a type of headscarf) and cutting their hair to protest the Iranian government’s strict rules affecting women. The demonstrations mark the largest protests the country has seen since the 2009 Green Revolution. At the time, then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accused of manipulating votes to win reelection.

So far, more than 300 protesters have reportedly been killed by security forces attempting to quell the demonstrations. In a letter in November, a majority of the Iranian parliament called for harsh punishment for the protesters, with some chanting “death to seditionists.”
Why Is Shakira involved?

Colombian pop singer Shakira highlighted Nasr-Azadani’s plight on Twitter during the World Cup final, hoping to draw the attention of her followers during the tournament.

She tweeted: “Today at the final of the World Cup, I only hope the players on the field and the whole world remembers that there’s a man and fellow footballer called Amir Nasr, on death row, only for speaking in favor of Women’s rights.”

Shakira, who was married to Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué, followed up with another tweet that told her fans: “I hope there’s more than a minute of silence in our hearts to remember what’s important and more than one voice united screaming for what is just.”

How Have Pro Soccer Players Reacted?

Nasr-Azadani’s detention and possible execution got an angry response from FIFPRO, a global union for pro soccer players, which expressed its disgust at the situation.

In a tweet last Monday, the organization wrote: “FIFPRO is shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution in Iran after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country.

“We stand in solidarity with Amir and call for the immediate removal of his punishment,” the tweet said.

Source » newsweek