Soccer fans in Iran’s Kurdish region set off fireworks and honked their horns early on Wednesday to celebrate the United States’ victory over Iran’s national team in a politically charged World Cup game that has divided the country torn apart by protests.
Cheerful supporters took to the streets of Iran’s Kurdish-majority province of Kurdistan and fireworks lit up the skies in the Bukan region of West Azerbaijan province to celebrate Israel’s 1-0 defeat Iranian team.
Some shouted “Death to the Dictator”, a popular protest slogan referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s Kurdish regions have been hotspots for ongoing anti-government protests.
The woman whose death sparked protests was Kurdish
Protests first erupted in September, following the death of a young Kurdish woman in the custody of Iranian morality police in the capital, Tehran.
The protests quickly turned into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since its inception in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian authorities have accused foreign actors, primarily the United States, of orchestrating the movement to protest, but provided no evidence.
Kurdish-majority regions of Iran have seen waves of unrest amid nationwide protests against the government. The national team’s loss to the United States was seen by some as a victory against what they see as government oppression.
Even in neighborhoods of Tehran, some chanted protest slogans after the US victory.
Videos posted online showed cars on the streets of Saqqez, the capital of Kurdistan province, and the hometown of Mahsa Amini, the young woman who died in police custody in September.
But not everyone applauded. Parham Azmand, a football fan in Tehran, said the Iranian team did their best.
“We worked very hard but we couldn’t score, although we did everything we could,” he said. “It was their day [the Americans]. Our players gave their best and I hope we do better in the next World Cups and God willing for the second round.”
After the match, state television commentator Mohammad Hossein Misaghi said the United States took “many opportunities” in the match.
“It was not our day,” said another commentator, Mohammadreza Ahmadi. He brushed off the defeat saying “a match is like that; there are wins and losses”.