Iranian professional soccer player Voria Ghafouri has been sacked from his team after criticizing the Islamic Republic’s bloody response to ongoing nationwide protests.
The head coach of Fooald FC in the southern city of Ahvaz announced that Ghafouri had no place in the team, Iranian media reported.
Iranian authorities arrested Ghafouri, a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, in November and later released him.
The football player has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities and policies, objecting to a ban on women spectators at men’s soccer matches, among other things.
More recently, he called for an end to an ongoing brutal crackdown on demonstrations in Iran’s western Kurdish regions.
A growing number of Iranian celebrities and sports personalities have shown support for the protest movement triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, while in police custody for an alleged clothing violation.
Some of these celebrities have been thrown behind bars, interrogated and had their passports confiscated, with Islamic Republic officials accusing them of "fanning the flames of the riots."
More than 500 people have been killed in the crackdown unleashed by the Iranian authorities on the demonstrations and over 18,000 have been detained, activists say.
The protests and state clampdown have been particularly intense in the western Kurdish regions and Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran’s Sunni Baluch minority