An altered version of the Iranian flag was temporarily posted by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on social media in support of Iranian protesters.
The altered flag did not include the emblem of the Islamic Republic, which represents a portion of the Islamic creed known as the shahada – “There is no god but Allah.” The flag was also missing two lines of text repeating the phrase Allahu Akbar – “Allah is greater.”
The USSF said in a statement that it wanted to post the altered flag for 24 hours to show support for “the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
CNSNews.com reports that Iran’s soccer governing body called on the world governing body, FIFA, to expel the U.S. Men’s National Team from the World Cup, claiming the flag modification was a “violation of international and ethical rules.”
“By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran on its official account, the US football team breached the FIFA charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty,” Tasnim, an Iranian news agency, tweeted. “Team USA should be kicked out of the World Cup 2022.”
U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby was asked Monday if the U.S. government was involved in the USSF’s decision to post the image of the altered flag.
“I am not aware of any conversations by anybody in the U.S. government that had anything to do with their decision either to post that image previously, and then to take it down and replace it,” Kirby said.
Protests in Iran have been ongoing for over two months, sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman arrested for allegedly breaking strict Islamic dress regulations. Members of the Iranian national soccer team, in apparent support of the protesters, refused to sing the Iranian national anthem at the start of their opening game against England on Nov. 21.
According to CNN, an unnamed source involved in the security of the games indicated that the “families of Iran’s World Cup soccer team have been threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to ‘behave’ ahead of the match against the USA on Tuesday.”
Fans in the stands at the World Cup venues have also held altered versions of the Iranian flag. In one case, the phrase “Women, Life, Freedom” – a slogan being chanted by protestors in Iran – replaced the Islamic Republic emblem in the center of the flag.
Iran and the United States face off today for their third and final game of group stage play in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The United States must win to advance to the knockout stage.