Mehran Samak, 27, died in Bandar Anzali city, northern Iran, during public celebrations by anti-government protesters following Tuesday’s match – in which the US beat Iran 1-0 to advance to the knockout stages of the competition.
The Norway-based watchdog group Iran Human Rights has alleged, citing “several independent sources,” that he was shot in the head by security personnel.
Police, however, have denied he was killed by authorities and have announced the arrests of several suspects in connection with his death, according to Iranian state media.
In a video that circulated on social media on Saturday, Mohammad Ahmadzadeh, who played for Iran from 1988 to 1990 and coached Malavan F.C. from 2018 to 2020, challenged Bandar Anzali’s member of parliament Ahmad Donyamali and called for accountability from city officials.
“Hello to all my fellow people of Anzali who are bereaved because we have lost yet another youth, Mehran Samak,” he said. “We’ve lost this dear one and all the people of Anzali are bereaved.”
“I don’t know what their crime was. I want to ask the authorities of the city – what was their crime? Is it a crime, punishable by death, to honk your horn or to be happy for whatever reason? I want to ask Mr. Donyamali, who considers himself a representative of this city – why are you silent? Aren’t you a rep of this city? What reaction have you shown to the events so far?”
The state-aligned Iran Students’ News Agency reported Thursday that the Bandar Anzali prosecutor had opened a case into the “suspicious” killing.
Several videos were posted on social media Tuesday night showing people in cities across Iran, including in the capital Tehran, celebrating inside their homes following the match.
“I am happy, this is the government losing to the people,” one witness to celebrations in a city in the Kurdish region told CNN on Wednesday. CNN is not naming the witness for security concerns.
Activist outlet 1500tasvir also posted videos showing security forces, reportedly on Tuesday night, opening fire at people in Behbahan and beating up a woman in Qazvin. Both cities are south of Bandar Anzali where Samak is said to have been shot.
CNN cannot independently confirm the information as Iran’s government is not allowing foreign media into the country, and has not been transparent in its reporting on protests and protest casualties.
Demonstrations have rocked Iran for several months, sparking a deadly clampdown from authorities.
The nationwide uprising was first ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in mid-September after being detained by the country’s morality police. Since then, protesters across Iran have coalesced around a range of grievances with the regime.