Calgarians arrested for peaceful Iran protest at FIFA World Cup

A Calgary man and his wife, who are from Iran, wore symbols to protest the strict Iran government at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, but were met with opposition by Qatari police. Taylor Braat speaks with the man, who says he was shocked by the treatment.

Calgarian Farshid Papaei and his wife Hila Yadegar were arrested in Qatar for peacefully protesting Iran at the World Cup a week ago.

Papaei says they were detained for hours, threatened, and physically injured by Qatari Police who he says were wearing Islamic Republic logos after Iran played England Monday, Nov. 21.

He says he was targeted by authorities because he was wearing a t-shirt with the Iranian flag and the emblem of the Lion and Sun, often used as the symbol of opposition to the Islamic Republic.

His wife wore a t-shirt with “WOMEN LIFE FREEDOM” on it — another stand against the strict Iranian government regime.

“He asked me two or three times to leave the stadium, and I said ‘OK, I will leave after half an hour,’ and without any warning, they put the handcuffs on my hands and they dragged me on the ground,” Papaei said.

“I asked them many times: ‘Why did you arrest me? Why did you bring me here? Why did you handcuff me?'”

Papaei says he and his wife were detained and given a warning.

“They said, ‘If you bring it for the next match, we cannot guarantee your safety.'”

He says they decided to continue wearing the symbols during the match between Iran and Wales on Friday, Nov. 25. They chanted things like “Mahsa Amini” and “Women, life, freedom” after the game.

Though Papaei says he is not usually political, he and his wife felt it was necessary to raise awareness about the situation in their home country.

Iran has been experiencing ongoing unrest since 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police after she wore her hijab improperly while in Tehran in mid-September.


Papaei says he did not expect to be threatened regardless of the messages they wore during the games.

“Honestly not that level of safety issue, so we changed our hotel just two days ago because my wife said they already have all our information,” Papaei explained.

The U.S. Soccer Federation displayed Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic for a short time — saying it was a show of support ahead of the two nations’ World Cup match Tuesday.

Papaei hopes Canadians will take a stand against FIFA — and the treatment he experienced.

“Try to be a voice of people in Iran, and if they can send email to FIFA because ‘women, freedom, life’ is a peaceful sign,” he said.

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