DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran arrested a outstanding former member of its nationwide soccer group on Thursday over his criticism of the federal government as authorities grapple with nationwide protests which have solid a shadow over its competitors on the World Cup.

The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim information companies reported that Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the nationwide soccer group and propagandizing towards the federal government.”

Ghafouri, who was not chosen to go to the World Cup, has been an outspoken critic of Iranian authorities all through his profession. He objected to a longstanding ban on girls spectators at males’s soccer matches in addition to Iran’s confrontational overseas coverage, which has led to crippling Western sanctions.

Extra lately, he expressed sympathy for the household of a 22-year-old lady whose demise whereas within the custody of Iran’s morality police ignited the latest protests. In current days he additionally known as for an finish to a violent crackdown on protests in Iran’s western Kurdistan area.

The studies of his arrest got here forward of Friday’s World Cup match between Iran and Wales. At Iran’s opening match, a 6-2 loss to England, the members of the Iranian nationwide group declined to sing alongside to their nationwide anthem and some fans expressed support for the protests.

At the very least 442 protesters have been killed and greater than 18,000 detained because the begin of the unrest, based on Human Rights Activists in Iran, a bunch that has been monitoring the protests.

The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn the crackdown and to create an impartial fact-finding mission to research alleged abuses, significantly these dedicated towards girls and kids.

Authorities have blamed the unrest on hostile overseas powers, with out offering proof, and say separatists and different armed teams have attacked safety forces. Human Rights Activists in Iran says a minimum of 57 safety personnel have been killed, whereas state media have reported the next toll.

The protesters say they’re fed up after a long time of social and political repression, together with a strict gown code imposed on girls. Younger girls have performed a number one function within the protests, stripping off the necessary Islamic headband to specific their rejection of clerical rule.

Some Iranians are actively rooting towards their very own group on the World Cup, associating it with rulers they view as violent and corrupt. Others insist the nationwide group, which incorporates gamers who’ve spoken out on social media in solidarity with the protests, represents the nation’s individuals.

The group’s star ahead, Sardar Azmoun, who has been vocal concerning the protests on-line, was on the bench throughout the opening match. Along with Ghafouri, two different former soccer stars have been arrested for expressing assist for the protests.

Different Iranian athletes have additionally been drawn into the battle.

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi competed with out carrying the necessary headband at a global competitors in South Korea in October, a transfer broadly seen as expressing assist for the protests. She acquired a hero’s welcome from protesters upon returning to Iran, at the same time as she advised state media the transfer was “unintentional” in an interview which will have been given beneath duress.

Earlier this month, Iran’s soccer federation threatened to punish gamers on its seaside soccer group after it defeated Brazil at a global competitors in Dubai. One of many gamers had celebrated after scoring a purpose by mimicking a feminine protester chopping off her hair.