An Iranian photojournalist who was to follow his ‘dream’ of working at a VM is said to have been arrested and imprisoned in his home country.
Arya Jafari may have been detained to prevent images of protests that followed the death of a young woman in custody from being shared and released internationally.
News of his arrest amid a draconian crackdown on dissent by the country’s hard-line clerical rulers was originally shared on Instagram by his friend and colleague, Amir Hosseini.
The reason for the 34-year-old’s arrest is unclear, but he was previously detained following protests in 2014 that were sparked by a series of acid attacks against women.
The former Iranian national kayaker had retweeted a photo of a protest on the streets of Iran in his last post on the platform.
Saman Javadi, who runs social media channels dedicated to the Iran football team, told Metro.co.uk that Jafari was a professional photographer who had previously competed in slalom.
Mr Javadi, who lives in Italy, said: “He was going to work for the first time in a FIFA World Cup, as his friend and colleague Amir Hosseini has said on Instagram. He was arrested a few days after Mahsa Amini’s death, following the protests in the streets.
“Personally, I do not know the reason for his arrest, but he was previously arrested in 2014 during other protests in Iran.
“It happened enough to prevent him from doing his work professionally; reporting the protests means his photos will be published outside Iran. Have you seen video or photos of protests from a journalist?
“No, unfortunately they have only been from social media, so it is very difficult to confirm the source. Fact-checking is lacking in the ongoing protests in Iran, as journalists are not allowed to cover these events.’
On Instagram, Mr Hosseini described how the photojournalist had contacted him with “good news”, which turned out to be that he would be traveling to Qatar in time for the opening ceremony.
He wrote: “The good news was that after all these years of photography and effort, he was going to achieve his dream and go to the WC as a photographer. I was happy with all my heart that he would finally get what he deserves.’
Mr Jafari’s Instagram page suggests he had turned his focus to Iranian football ahead of the World Cup. On Twitter, his last activity was retweeting other users’ photos showing protests on the streets of Iran, the last of which was dated September 21.
Hosseini said his friend ‘could have been quiet’ and attended the FIFA matches in the wealthy emirate, where Iran lost 6-2 to England at the Khalifa International Stadium today.
Hosseini added: “He could easily have been in Qatar at the opening ceremony of the World Cup, like every photographer in the world, shooting the most important sporting event in the world.
“But he gave up the World Cup to be with the people of his country.”
The Human rights group Journalism is Not a Crime said Jafari was arrested at his home on September 25 during protests over Mahsa Amini’s death. She reportedly fell into a coma while being detained by Iran’s morality police. Mr Jafari, from the central city of Isfahan, is described as “in prison” on “unknown” charges by the group.
The 22-year-old’s death for failing to wear the hijab properly sparked unprecedented protests across the country, with many women joining demonstrations despite an often violent police response.
Weeks of demonstrations led to the arrest of 32 journalists on November 10, according to the International Federation of Journalists.
On its website, Journalism is Not a Crime said: ‘Arya Jafari is a veteran photojournalist and sports reporter.
“He is a member of the Iranian Photojournalist Association which has announced that people close to Jafari have had no news about him and the reason for his arrest is unknown.”
In the stands of the Khalifa International Stadium, protesters were pictured holding up banners calling for “freedom” for women in Iran.
Outside, some were pictured showing a case movement in a show of defiance against Iran’s rulers as part of the ongoing movement.
The sign, said by activists to be an ancient Persian symbol of defiance, was used by Iranian striker Saeed Piramoun when his team won the Emirates Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup in Dubai on November 6.
In a powerful show of solidarity with people opposed to the ruling regime in their homeland, the Iranian team has stood silent for the national anthem before kick-off today. Some of their fans were shown in tears in the stands.
Several players also defied possible consequences from the country’s rulers to speak out before the match.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun wrote: “Worst case I will be dismissed from the national team.
‘No problem. I would sacrifice it for one hair on the head of Iranian women.
“This history will not be erased. They can do whatever they want.
“Shame on you for killing so easily; long live Iranian women.’
Metro.co.uk has attempted to contact FIFA and the Iranian government for comment.
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