Iranian Soccer Player on Death Row

By Julia Ordaz

Iranian soccer player Amir Nasr Azadani has been placed on Iran’s death row for his participation in the September 16, 2022 protests following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini. The protest in Isfahan, which Iran saw three security guards killed, has been labeled an “armed riot” by Iranian authorities. Azadani has been in custody since November 27, 2022 and is set to be hanged. 

The 26-year old Azadani last played as a defender in the highest division of professional soccer in Iran: the Persian Gulf Pro League for the club Tractor.

Iran has revealed that over 500 deaths have resulted from the protests, which includes protestors, police officers, troops, and paramilitary forces. The death toll will increase with the executions. 

Isfahan’s chief justice Abdullah Jafari has stated that Azadani is accused of “rebellion, membership in illegal gangs, collusion to undermine security and thereby assisting in moharebeh.” Loosely translated, “moharebeh” means to “wage war” or “fight against God,” which is a capital crime in the Islamic Republic. 

Iran carried out its first execution related to the protests on December 8, 2022. Mohsen Shekari was accused of taking part in a riot that blocked a road in Tehran and wounded a paramilitary force on September 25. Shekari was found guilty of moharebeh by an Islamic Revolutionary Court for fighting and drawing a weapon “with the intention of killing, causing terror and disturbing the order and security of society.” 

Deputy chairman of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom and former Revolutionary Court judge Morteza Moghtadai said, “If a mohareb kills someone, he should get the death sentence, but if he only threatens and intimidates, even if he is convicted, he should not get a death sentence; which means although he is a mohareb but should not be executed.” 

Pleas for mercy and Azadani’s release have been echoed by people around the world. In a Tweet on December 12, the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels or FIFPRO said that they’re “shocked and sickened” after Azadani was just “campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country.” They continued, “We stand in solidarity with Amir and call for the immediate removal of his punishment.” The day of the 2022 World Cup Final December 18, 2022, Colombian singer and songwriter Shakira also shone a spotlight on Azadani’s situation. She tweeted, “Today at the final of the World Cup, I only hope the players on the field and the whole world remembers that there’s a man and fellow footballer called Amir Nasr, on death row, only for speaking in favor of Women’s rights.” FIFA has not commented on Azadani’s situation. 

Azadani remains on death row. 

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