Author: Alan

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says protesters are not a group

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says protesters are not a group

Iran to face Western geopolitical rivals in World Cup as backlash mounts over its protest crackdown

By Peter Symonds, BBC World Service

The Iranian government, widely seen as the major player in determining the outcome of the World Cup, has been accused of using threats, arrests, beatings and mass arrests to stifle dissent.

The reaction in Iran has been fierce, and has now extended to the UK, with the Football Association accusing Tehran that it could face “international action” amid a crackdown on football fans.

Iran is set to host the World Cup in June, just months after a string of controversial, anti-government protests – in February and March – saw a violent crackdown to silence dissent.

Those protests were the focus of the most recent edition of the documentary and book series The Footballers’ War, which looks at the social and political changes surrounding the World Cup in Iran.

A year ago, the World Cup was still on the horizon and now it’s upon us

Gholam Hossein Esmaili

Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The programme, which was broadcast on Friday night, has sparked fierce reactions on the streets of Tehran with calls for government supporters to be given “freedom of speech” and for protesters to show more respect for each other.

But for the Iranian Government itself the reaction has been far more violent and harsh.

“We cannot permit freedom of expression for the demonstrators,” the Iranian Football Federation said in a statement, adding that there had been “thousands of arrests” made in the past week.

The governing body also condemned “the use of force” against Iranian football fans, and threatened any supporter who took to the streets that they could be “suspected and arrested”.

The programme was also broadcast at a time of growing international concern over the way in which protests have been carried out in Iran, and with the country facing an uncertain future with a US-Iranian nuclear agreement at stake.

However, President Ahmadinejad, who has come under intense pressure over his Government’s handling of the protests, said he does not share the view that those who demonstrated in Iran in March were violent.

“For some time, they have been a group with no leaders, no leadership,” he told state television.

“In many cases, they have been a group of individuals.”

But there have been no shortage of voices pointing out the irony

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