Iran Men’s Water Polo Team Declines to Sing National Anthem in Sign of Protest

Photo Courtesy: NCAA

Iran Men’s Water Polo Team Declines to Sing National Anthem in Sign of Protest

Video circulating on social media this week appears to show members of the Iran men’s water polo team declining to sing the national anthem before a match, seen as an act of defiance against an Iranian regime facing rampant street protests.

The video stems from Iran’s opening match at the 2022 Asian Water Polo Championship in Samut Prakan, Thailand. (Iran won that match over India on Tuesday.) The team collects on deck in black bathrobes before the game, for stony silence as the Islamic republic’s anthem plays.

Reuters reported on but could not independently verify the video. The video has widely circulated by activist other Iran watchers, as well as several verified media sources. The Iranian Federation of Swimming, Diving and Water Polo did not comment on the matter to Reuters, and no mention of it has been included in any of the copious write-ups from the tournament.

Iran was thrown into tumult in September when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. A native of the Kurdish province in the northwest of the country, she was detained during a visit to the captain Tehran by the so-called morality police for improperly wearing her headscarf. She died under suspicious circumstances while detained, and the country has erupted in street protests since, that the government has sought to crack down on.

Athletes have played a role in the protests. Per Reuters, members of the national beach soccer team didn’t sing the anthem before a match last week and were muted in their celebrations after beating Brazil in a match. Female athletes, including a speed climber and a speedskater, have competed without headscarves, though later posts have cast doubt on whether they were deliberate acts of protest. (Coercion in explanations or purported apologies for these incidents are difficult to ascertain given the control exerted by Iranian authorities.)

Iran’s soccer team will begin the FIFA Men’s World Cup next week in a game against England that will reignite such conversations. Iran is ranked 20th in the world the top-ranked team in Asia.