Britain urged to support Iran’s footballers if they seek asylum after 'bold and brave' act

Chairwoman of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee says players face a serious threat to their lives

Iran's players stand in silence during their national anthem before their World Cup Group B match against England. AP
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Britain should support members of Iran’s international football team if they seek asylum following their “very bold and brave political statement”, a senior politician has said.

Alicia Kearns, who heads the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the risk to the players’ lives is “serious and severe”.

On Monday, Iran’s players stood in silence during their country’s national anthem before their 6-2 World Cup loss to England.

It was viewed as a gesture of solidarity with Iranians protesting against the government, who have been the target of a severe crackdown by security forces. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed in the violence and thousands detained.

Iran's captain Ehsan Hajsafi called for change in the country and sent condolences to bereaved families before the Group B fixture.

Iranian supporters react during the national anthem ahead the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran. AP

Anti-government protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict dress code for women.

Ms Kearns, asked whether the UK should offer asylum to footballers who want it after the World Cup, said: “It’s a dangerous one to call on governments to proactively offer asylum.

“But if we are approached by Iranian players seeking asylum, then, of course, we should be looking to provide that support to them because we know they have chosen to make a very bold and brave political statement and we know the risks to their lives are serious and severe.”

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith also called for help for the players from Britain. He wrote in The Sun: “The Iranian team may choose not to go back to Iran given what’s going.

“Our government should treat those individuals with an accelerated asylum process if that’s the case."

The House of Commons last week heard that more than 14,000 people have been detained in Iran so far, with more than 300 deaths recorded.

“The bravery is absolutely incredible that we’re seeing every day on the streets of Iran, but also what we’re seeing in Qatar from those who are from Iran,” Ms Kearns added.

“I think what’s really important is we all amplify their voices and do everything we can because the Iranian government will be seeking to silence them.”

Updated: November 22, 2022, 3:56 PM