The U.S. Soccer Association is displaying Iran’s national flag on social media without the Islamic Republic’s emblem, saying it supports protesters in Iran ahead of the nations’ World Cup match on Tuesday.
The federation said in a statement on Sunday that it decided to ditch the official flag on its social media accounts to show “support for the women of Iran who are fighting for basic human rights.”
The move comes as nationwide protests challenging Tehran’s theocratic government continue in Iran.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday that the Iranian Football Association will file an official complaint about the matter with FIFA’s ethics committee.
The US Men’s National Team Twitter account displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, where the Iranian flag carries only its green, white and red colours. The same can be seen in a post on their Facebook and Instagram accounts posting the scores so far in the group.
The U.S. Soccer Association displayed the official Iranian flag in a graphic showing the Group B standings on its website.
The absence of the emblem comes as months of demonstrations have challenged Iran’s government since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the country’s morality police.
The protests have seen at least 450 people killed since they began, as well as more than 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group that followed the demonstrations.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations and its soccer federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As comments raged online, Tasnim news agency described the US federation as “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag.
The emblem of the Islamic Republic, designed in 1980, is four baskets with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic saying: “There is no god but God.” It also resembles a tulip or lotus.
On the top and bottom of the flag are also 22 inscriptions of “God is Great”, honoring the date on the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution took hold.
The flag has become a point of contention in the World Cup. Ostensibly pro-government supporters have waved it and shouted at those demonstrating over Amini’s death. Others at matches have waved Iran’s lion and sun flag, an emblem of the country’s former ruler, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
More security forces could be seen at Iran’s last game against Wales. In the capital Tehran, anti-riot police – the same ones who crack down on protests – waved the Iranian flag after the Wales win, angering protesters.