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Azadi Stadium Protesters Shout “Death to the Dictator”

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1 ساعت،40 دقیقه

Police clashed with protesting football fans — some of them shouting “death to the dictator” — at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on the evening of Friday, August 10. 

On Friday evening, more than 15,000 fans of Tabriz Tractor Sazi football team had arrived at Azadi Stadium to watch their team play Tehran Esteghlal. The unrest began two hours before the game, when many Tractor fans were already in their designated seats. The first tier of seats had been designated for 15,000 Esteghlal fans and, little by little, the two groups started shouting abuse at each other — including sexual obscenities and ethnic slurs.

Responding to the chaos, the stadium closed the doors to the first tier seating an hour before the game started. They also stopped selling tickets for that area of seating, and security agents prevented further people from entering, even those who had already purchased tickets. Then, half an hour before the game started, the stadium opened the doors of the second tier to the fans of Esteghlal.

At that point, the nature of chants from some of the 15,000 Tabriz Tractor Sazi fans changed, and they started chanting “death to the dictator.” A few minutes later, anti-riot police agents who had been sitting among the spectators rushed toward Tabriz fans, which temporarily stopped the chants.

“As long as the chants were ethnic, the police did nothing,” Mehrdad, a reporter who was at the stadium told IranWire, “but the moment that the chants changed and became political, anti-riot police attacked Tractor Sazi fans.”

“A few minutes earlier, fans of Esteghlal and Tractor Sazi had been shouting at each other, but the moment that security forces attacked Tabriz fans, Esteghlal fans rose in their support,” he said. 

Even during the first half of the game the chants were not about football. State-run Iranian TV muted the audio of the live transmission, as it has done over in the last two weeks when reporting on protests. “It seems that they had foreseen that unrest was on the cards,” said Mehrdad, “because they had stationed more than a thousand anti-riot police both outside the western and especially behind the southern gates of Azadi Stadium. We had rarely seen such a scene in Tehran during the tournaments.”

During the second half of the game, some Tractor Sazi fans who had been leading the protests suggested people leave the stadium. Up until the 60th minute, Esteghlal was winning 3-0 against Tractor Sazi, and this prompted the suggestion that fans leave half an hour before the end of the game.

A day earlier there were clashes between supporters of Esteghlal Khuzestan and Persepolis football teams at Ghadir Stadium in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan. In the midst of fights and fans throwing stones at one another, there were chants of “Death to Khamenei” and “death to the dictator”.

The “death to the dictator” chant had been heard before during a football game, in the second week of Iran’s Upper League tournament. Then, the chants were shouted as spectators were leaving the stadium as the game between Persepolis and Khuzestan Foolad ended. On Friday, the chants started while spectators were still seated.

The opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Iranians Global Network.