Dutch striker Jürgen Lokadia says he left Iran last month and cancelled his contract with Tehran’s Persepolis football club because of the Islamic Republic’s ongoing brutal crackdown on nationwide protests.
"Send me all those hate messages please. Call me a monkey! Send me those emoji’s! I did [my best] while i was there," Lokadia wrote on his Instagram page.
“Its crazy that the media is picturing me as a bad guy who just left for no reasons. They are hanging people publicly there…And then we need to play the games while other footballers are getting hanged,” he also said.
IRNA news agency earlier reported that Lokadia did not attend the team's training on December 18 and left the country the next day.
Locadia joined Persepolis in 2022 and became the club’s best scorer with six goals.
At the start of the protests that have swept Iran for more than three months, the football player expressed sympathy for the families of the victims of the bloody state crackdown on the demonstrations.
The security forces have killed more than 500 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 18,000, human rights activists say.
At least 100 protesters are currently at risk of “execution, death penalty charges or sentences,” according to one rights group, including Iranian footballer Amir Reza Nasr Azadani, who was sentenced to death last month for joining the protests.
The Islamic Republic carried out the first two executions by hanging in December, triggering international condemnation.
A growing number of Iranian athletes and other celebrities have voiced support for the protest movement against Iran's clerical establishment.
The Islamic Republic has accused these celebrities of "fanning the flames of the riots" and jailed a number of them.
The Netherlands and other European countries have urged their nationals to leave Iran and advised against all travel to the country. Western countries have repeatedly accused Iran of taking dual and foreign nationals hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.