IRANIAN athletes are not free from the brutal and bloodsoaked hand of the regime no matter how much glory they bring to their home nation.
At least six sports stars are known to have been executed – often facing trumped up charges simply for speaking out against ruthless Tehran.Iran uses execution methods such as firing squads, hangings and stonings[/caption]
Iranian officials and clerics offered veiled threats of punishment facing the players ahead of today’s match.
Fans booed, jeered and were left in tears during as the players looked miserable as they sung the anthem – but perhaps they were hoping to escape the terrible fate that met these athletes.
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Footballers, boxers and others have been hanged or shot for speaking up against the regime.
Protests continue to sweep the country over the death Mahsa Amini, who was beaten to death by Tehran’s morality police.
The 22-year-old has become a symbol of resistance and women’s rights in Iran.
But thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds killed during the uprising which has been raging since September – with the protests spreading to all parts of life in Iran, including sport.
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Iran hanged champion wrestler Navid Afkari two years ago on trumped up charges for killing a security guard during protests.
He is believed to have been tortured and forced to sign a confession letter.
Handwritten letters from him detailed 50 days of beatings and attempted suffocation.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is about to execute an innocent person,” he said in a final voice message.
Navid was hanged – and his death sparked outrage around the world, with even then US President Donald Trump decrying Tehran.
Habib KhabiriHabib Khabiri was a national footballing hero – but was killed aged just 29[/caption]
Described as the closest thing Iran has ever had to American national hero Kobe Bryant, Habib Khabiri was hanged by Iran.
He was the captain of Iran’s national football team and a hero.
Habib scored a dramatic winning goal in the 1978 World Cup qualifying game against Kuwait.
But he was arrested and executed when he was aged just 29, being hanged for being a member of a dissident group.
He was killed among 40 others at the notorious Evin Prison.
“Habib was the Iranian Kobe Bryant,” commentator Manook Khodabakhshian told Sports Illustrated in 1998.
“Sometimes when I watch Kobe Bryant, I see Habib Khabiri. He was only 16 or 17 when he started to play for the national team. He was a very creative player.
“So young, such a happy guy.”
Mahshid RazaghiHabib (bottom) also saw his teammate Mahshid Razaghi (top) be arrested[/caption]
Another footballer who played alongside Habib, Mahshid Razaghi was a member of the Iranian team that went to the Olympics.
He was arrested for selling anti-government newspapers – and was sentenced to one year in prison in 1980.
But the footie star was never released.
Mahshid was left rotting in jail until 1988 – when he was executed along with a wave of other political prisoners as part of the infamous massacres by the Death Commission.
His brother Ahmad was also executed just days later, with up to 30,000 people estimated to have been killed in the purge.
Another high profile athlete, Foruzan Abdi was the captain of the Iranian women’s national team.
She was arrested in 1981 and sentenced for eight years in prison for supporting a dissident group.
Just like Mahshid, she was never released from her prison.
And she was killed along with thousands of others as part of the 1988 purge.
Iran killed kickboxer Majid Jamali-Fashi after a show trial which was shown on TV.
He was accused of working for Israeli spies and assassinating a nuclear scientist in Tehran.
Pictures were paraded on TV of an Israeli passport said to be his – only for it to be exposed as one edited from Wikipedia.
Majid is alleged to have been tortured into to confessing, and he is believed to have doomed after being mentioned in a leak by Wikileaks.
He was hanged.
Five years after he represented Iran at the Olympics as a wrestler, Houshang Montazeralzohour was executed by firing squad.
He was a national champion in his weight class and competed for the his country at the Summer Olympics in Montreal.
But he was arrested along with 29 others in 1981.
Houshang was allegedly tortured and then shot dead by firing squad.Iran’s players sung their national anthem and managed to beat Wales 2-0[/caption]