At World Cup, U.S. soccer briefly scrubs Islamic emblem from Iran flag

It also comes as the US faces Iran in a crucial World Cup match already burdened by decades of enmity between the two countries and nationwide protests now challenging Tehran’s theocratic government.

The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement Sunday morning that it decided to drop the official flag on its social media accounts to show “support for women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”

The US men’s team’s Twitter account displayed a banner of the team’s group stage matches, with the Iranian flag in just its green, white and red colors. The same can be seen in a post on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, showing the point totals so far in her group.

By Sunday afternoon, the normal flag with the emblem had returned to Twitter’s banner as attention to it grew.

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“We wanted to show our support for women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours,” the federation said.

The U.S. Soccer Federation displayed the official Iranian flag on a chart showing the Group B standings on its website.

The brief absence of the coat of arms comes after months of demonstrations have challenged Iran’s government since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the country’s moral police.

The protests have seen at least 450 people killed since they began, as well as over 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group behind the demonstrations.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations and its soccer federation did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. As the comments spread online, Iranian state television described the US federation as “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag.

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Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to the Iranian Football Federation, as saying that “the measures taken regarding the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran are against the law” of FIFA competitions.

“They must be held accountable,” Fagahanpour said. “Obviously they want to affect Iran’s performance against the US by doing that.”

The coat of arms of the Islamic Republic, designed in 1980, is four bends with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic saying: “There is no God but God”. It also resembles a tulip or water lily.

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At the top and bottom of the flag, there are 22 inscriptions of “God is Great,” also honoring the date in the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution began.

The flag has become a talking point at the World Cup. Visible pro-government supporters have rocked it, shouting at those demonstrating for Amini’s death. Others at the match waved Iran’s lion and sun flag, an emblem of its former ruler, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

More security forces could be seen at Iran’s recent match against Wales. In the capital Tehran, riot police – the same ones who crack down on protests – waved the Iranian flag after Wales’ victory, angering demonstrators.


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