Iranian security forces shot dead an Iranian man who celebrated the United States' win over Iran in their World Cup football game, as popular sentiment throughout the country and Iranian Diaspora continues to oppose its national team amid the government's brutal crackdown on protests.
On Tuesday, the US beat Iran 1-0 at the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, effectively eliminating the Iranian team from the games. Rather than mourning the loss, however, many in Iran and abroad celebrated it as a triumph against the Iranian government which has been cracking down on protests throughout the country over the past few months following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini under police custody.
27-year-old Mehran Samak was one of those celebrating, before he was shot dead by security forces for honking his car horn in north-western city of Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea coast. According to the Oslo-based group, Iran Human Rights (IHR), Samak "was targeted directly and shot in the head by security forces … following the defeat of the national team against America".
In an Instagram post, the Iranian midfielder, Saeid Ezatolahi – who played in the match against the US and who also hails from Bandar Anzali – revealed that he knew Samak, showing a picture of them together in a youth football team. "After last night's bitter loss, the news of your passing set fire to my heart," Ezatolahi said in the post, describing Samak as a "childhood teammate".
Without commenting on the circumstances of his friend's death, he said that "Someday the masks will fall, the truth will be laid bare," adding that "This is not what our youth deserve. This is not what our nation deserves."
An Iranian judiciary official today confirmed Samak's death, saying he died after being shot by birdshot, following the match between the US and Iran. According to the semi-official ISNA News Agency, the official stated that "As soon as this suspicious incident happened, a court case was filed to deal with the issue and the Prosecutor of Bandar Anzali is handling the case".
Throughout the World Cup, many Iranians have refused to support the national team as an act of defiance against the Iranian government, with crowds of Iranians cheering and setting off fireworks after the match on Tuesday. Celebrations for the loss took place in the capital, Tehran, as well as in the cities of Marivan and Sanandaj in the country's Kurdish region.