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Iran Issues Life Ban From National Football Team

For two footballers, their time on the national team of Iran is over. The two teammates were issued a lifetime ban against the players after they played against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv for their Greek club side.

The two midfielders, Masoud Shojaei (the captain of the national team) and Ehsan Hajisafi (one of the team’s top players), appeared for their Greek team Panionios in the Europa League third qualifying round second leg last week.

“It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajisafi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line,” said Mohammad Reza Davarzani, Iran’s deputy sports minister.

The reality is that for Iran, the nation of Israel simply does not exist. As a result, their players are banned from playing against any team from Israel or even competing against Israelis. The two men had refused to play a game in Israel, despite the fines and pressure they faced from their team. Yet, for the regime, the only thing that would have been enough is if the men had been willing to forfeit their contracts to avoid playing the Israelis.

This is not the first time that Iran has struck out against players who have broken various regime taboos. Others have been banned for not wearing the hajib, as is required by Iranian law, even for Iranians outside of the country.

For these players, there is no right answer. To meet the rules of the regime would limit their ability to play in a variety of international settings. Yet, to not follow the rules of the regime would lead to being banned and suffering the consequences in their home country.

The regime uses its power to control the behavior of its national teams. Thus, the human rights of these teams are often trampled on just as much as their countrymen within Iran. The strict rules governing sexual morality under the country’s Sharia legal code provide the basis for many of the bans and disciplinary measures these players undergo. For the women, their attire is constantly being observed and any deviation is open to consequences.

But these consequences are also being felt by those that attempt to train in a physical activity not sanctioned by the regime. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced the arrest of members of a Zumba and Shafel Dance Training Network. The group was accused of debauchery. The commander noted that by training using a variety of western dances and producing clips, they were trying to change the lifestyles and promoting unveiling and rejecting the obscenity of this issue.

“After the observation by the IRGC Intelligence forces of Shahrud, the members of this network were identified and a court order was issued by Shahrud district prosecutor and several members of the network were arrested in a strike action, including four boys and two girls who were in a mix-gender meeting and while filming and making clips,” said Colonel Hamid Damaghani, an IRGC commander in Shahrud.

These are just a few examples of how the Iranian fundamentalism has taken away the most basic personal freedoms from individuals who want to play sports or participate in various activities with others.

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