Iran wants fans to support its national team – they just can't take it too far. Three have been arrested for their part in a video clip supporting "Team Melli," the nickname for the Iranian squad.
The clip features Iranian fans dancing, singing and waving the Iranian flag in cities around the world, including one within Iran's borders, where women are banned from participating in such public displays. Some of the women in the clip are not wearing the required headscarf.
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Despite strict laws, fans in the nation's capital, Tehran, and other cities had celebrated on June 22, when Iran nearly survived a 0-0 draw with Argentina. Lionel Messi gave the South American nation the win in stoppage time, but it was still a huge game for Iran, and fans were too happy to contain their pride. They cheered, lit firecrackers, and honked car horns, according to an Iranian-American reporting for the Washington Post.
"We revel in this rare, albeit fleeting, moment of collective identity and pride. Soccer, namely Team Melli on the world stage, is the single most unifying force among Iranians. Nothing else comes close," she wrote.
It was a public display of celebration that officials tried to avoid – the government banned public broadcasting of the World Cup games at restaurants, parks and cafes this summer, despite having a president that encourages Iranians to support the team.
Unfortunately, three Iranians showing that pride in the video clip are now under arrest in the city of Shahroud, reports the offical IRNA news agency. Two are 23-year-old actors, according to Agence France Press; the other is a 26-year-old photographer, according to the Associated Press. Local police commander Colonel Rahmatollah Taheri called the clip "vulgar."
The clip was produced by the Ajam Band, based in London. Last month, Iranian police arrested six people for their part in a video clip in which they sang the popular Pharell Williams song "Happy." The video, titled "Happy in Tehran," went viral. All six were released within a few days, but the director of the video remained in custody as of May 21.
Those arrests came shortly after President Rouhani denounced censorship, saying it is time for the country to embrace the internet.
"#Cyberspace should be seen as opportunity," Rouhani tweeted on May 17, "facilitating two-way communication, increasing efficiency & creating jobs."
While no laws have changed, Rouhani also tweeted a response to the "Happy" arrests.
The three arrested for showing support in the World Cup video would likely agree.
Iran was eliminated from the World Cup after losing 3-1 to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. It claimed one more small victory, though, when Reza Ghoochannejhad found the back of the net in the 82nd minute. With that goal, Iran became the 32nd team to score in this Cup, meaning all teams have scored in the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
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