Doha, Qatar – Chants of “Say his name, Mahsa Amini,” echoed among protesters outside the Khalifa International Stadium ahead of Iran’s 2022 World Cup opener against England.
A dozen men, women and children were seen on Monday wearing t-shirts saying “Zan, Zindagi, Azadi” (women, life, freedom), a popular song from the protests in Iran.
Protests have been taking place in Iran since mid-September after the death in custody of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman from Kurdistan. Amini was arrested by the country’s morality police in the capital, Tehran, for violating Iran’s law on women’s clothing.
In the past few days, protests have intensified in the northwest of the majority Kurdish regions, with videos continuing to emerge from several cities, including Mahabad, Bukan and Piranshahr in West Azerbaijan and Javanrud in Kermanshah.
“My people in Iran are in a lot of trouble and are being killed by the regime, so we want to use this opportunity to raise their voice,” Mahmoud Izadi, one of the organizers of the protest, told Al Jazeera in the Qatari capital Doha. .
The protests began with applause and chants of “Iran” but soon turned political as angry crowds began to hold up placards bearing Amini’s image.
Dressed in black to register his protests, Izadi said the protests want the world to pay attention to what is happening in Iran and are using the World Cup as a platform because their voices are being crushed in their country.
After the protesters fell silent, a group of men in Iranian football shirts began shouting in support of the group.
“People who are dancing and cheering in Iran have been sent here by the government to paint a different image,” Izadi said, adding that he was not there to support the group “because they are not helping our people”.
The biggest opposition seems to be those who traveled to Qatar from places other than Iran.
Others, who seem to be in Iran or will go there, simply blow aside and remove any interest.
The couple and a few women declined requests for comment, saying they wanted to avoid trouble at home.
Hasti, an Iranian-born American here to watch Iranian sports, said he doesn’t think a sports tournament is the best place to write a show but there aren’t many options for his countrymen to choose from.
“We will use every platform we can find to tell this story and this will not help the Iranian people directly but it will help show the world what is happening there.”
In between the songs, the crowd held up a picture of former Iranian footballer Ali Karimi who has been supporting the protests.
Karimi left the country after the protests started in Iran.
“The administration was after his life and he has been on the run since then,” Izadi said.
Abi Shams, wearing a green t-shirt that says “Help liberate Iran,” flew in from the US and says his choice of clothing is to attract attention.
“What we have in Iran is brutal and we, the protesters, are the voice of the Iranian people,” he said.
As the crowd gathered outside the entrance of the stadium, people began to pass through the winding roads. However, the protesters stayed behind for the last time chanting and clapping and they say they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
“We have reached a point where we cannot go back and we will not be oppressed by the government anymore,” said Izadi, before joining in the chant of “zan, zindagi, azadi”.