Canada Soccer was right to cancel the game against Iran. The regime’s human rights abuses are no game

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I would like to thank Canada Soccer for canceling the friendly match with Iran’s national soccer team, originally scheduled for early June in Vancouver.

Upon hearing the news of this invitation from Canada Soccer, many Canadians, including many Canadians of Iranian descent, expressed their critical objections to this decision and demanded that it be reversed. Here’s why it’s so important to cancel this game.

With its main directives of “death to America” ​​and “annihilation of the Zionist regime”, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been politicizing sport to advance its ideologies and spread hatred and division since its revolution in 1979. This authoritarian regime ordered athletes to refuse to play matches against Israeli and American teams whenever possible, or even deliberately lose matches to avoid facing these nations in the next round.

The Iranian regime’s ideological militia, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, holds prominent positions in all areas of government, including sports. The Revolutionary Guards control football clubs, matches and the revenue generated. In 2020, the Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 people on board, including 85 Canadians and permanent residents of Canada. The Revolutionary Guards, recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States since 2019, say it was “human error” and threaten the families of the victims to seek justice.

For 43 years, women and girls have been banned from attending live matches in Iranian stadiums. Although FIFA has lobbied Iran since 2018 to allow female spectators, there have been horrific incidents targeting women. In 2019, Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire to protest the court’s decision to jail her for entering a stadium disguised as a man. Last March, hundreds of Iranian women with valid tickets were denied entry to a World Cup qualifier in Mashhad, with many pepper sprayed for opposing.

Iranian government practices have been compared to apartheid South Africa, as both regimes adopted coercive, harsh, and unjust political and cultural discrimination against targeted segments of their citizens. For Iran, cruel and systemic discrimination against women, gay people and people with different religious or political beliefs continues.

The overthrow of apartheid in South Africa was facilitated by the 1985 UN decision International Convention against Apartheid in Sport and a 1988 statement by the International Olympic Committee, which resulted in the total isolation of teams under apartheid from international sporting events.

I hope these points will make it more understandable for those who supported the scheduled match, saying that “sport should not be politicized”. I also hope that Canada postpones hosting any future sporting events with Iran until it has a government that respects human rights and international law.

Many thanks to all Canadians of different faiths and backgrounds who voiced their concerns for a common purpose and courageously questioned this invitation. A big thank you to Canada Soccer for doing the right thing and being on the right side of history.

Ghazaleh Rabiei is an Iranian-Canadian based in Toronto. She moved to Canada when she was 17. She is a graduate of OCADU and Queen’s University.

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