There have been countless images of female Iranian supporters dressed in party-hats and looking every bit as casually turned out as any Western women. In view of the recent severe, and brutal, actions inside Iran against women dressed in a way considered inappropriate, could this portend trouble for them when they return?

Equally, at the World Cup match against England, the entire Iranian team stood grim-faced and silent during the playing of their country's anthem. It has been widely interpreted by the media as a protest against the regime that rules in Tehran.

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    We cannot look in the future. Maybe, maybe not. But in a few days we will know. Iran isn't the nicest country on Earth, politically speaking. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 11:53
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    Notably, they did sing it before today's game against Wales.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 12:09
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    The recent edit turned this into a "what does the law say?" question, which would fit much better on law.stackexchange.com. We generally only allow law questions when they are laws which apply specifically to politicians and political processes. See also Where/how do we draw the line between legal and political questions? on meta. Laws affecting political speech are a fringe-case, but I believe it still fits better on law SE.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 13:44
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    I don't think the question is totally out of scope, just premature. Currently any answer would be mostly speculation. However, once we know what happened, one can probably ask an interesting question about it. As for the current title. Typically a country do not have jurisdiction over another country, so before Iranians do return to Iran, nothing can happen. When they come back, many things can happen. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 17:18
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    We can't tell what will happen to these people when they return home. That's pure speculation.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


Yes. One of the drawbacks of an authoritarian system of government is that what "the law" is is a bit more opaque. If the current ruling President of Iran (or the current Supreme Leader) wants to punish the players then the players will be punished. Who is there to overrule a leader who is Supreme?

You can argue however that similar traits exist even in much more democratic forms of government; if anyone from local prosecutors or police up the chain in the executive all the way up to the President has a beef with someone, they can do their best to disrupt that person's life using their power to do so. The biggest differences though are that 1) The people in the executive must generally still prove something to different officials in a completely different branch of government before any actions can be taken, 2) those same people are subject to the same set of laws, which (at least, theoretically) include harsh punishments for abusing their power against ordinary citizens. Additionally, many of the officials in the executive branch are elected, so in a not very long time they could potentially be held to account for their actions by the people generally, even if any actions they take against people don't rise to the level of criminal. This system of checks and balances against abuses of power just doesn't exist in authoritarian governments.

There have been examples of kidnappings of dissidents by some administrations while they are abroad and even sometimes go so far as outright murder. It is highly speculated that Russia even went so far as to use a chemical agent against defected spy Sergei Skripal and his 33 year old daughter in order to either silence or exact revenge against, and U.S.-Saudi relations are still being impacted by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by members of the Saudi royal family (which just so happened to also be audio recorded by the Turkish government).

The balancing act authoritarians must make when dispensing such justice is to find a way to keep the populace subdued enough out of fear and yet not angry enough to revolt, so disappearing the entire team is probably not something they can risk doing, certainly not in the wake of the recent protests in the country triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in official custody. They may, however, choose to identify who amongst them is the most vocal and attempt to make an example of them personally or their family in an attempt to silence the entire team (or in this case induce into patriotically singing along), but the range of options the leaders of the country have and can use against any single individual is, in fact, supreme.

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    Not sure Skripal is that related, but this claim, that people may fear persecution due to unclear rules is substantiated by this a recent rock climbing wo hijab event. and a female boxing competitor's concerns Now, it might be argued that is Western propaganda - I did not find hijab-related prosecutions for women specifically abroad googling. But Iran is a regime which has murdered expat dissidents in the past. Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:14
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I wanted to highlight Skripal since a dangerous chemical agent was used and the fact that the entire levers of power in the state can be brought to bear against someone. Now I doubt any nuclear armed nation would utilize a nuclear warhead against domestic political opponents who happened to be traveling abroad, but if they have absolute power over those warheads and got it in their mind it was a good idea, who would stop them?
    – user5155
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 17:13
  • Also: I am not an expert in Iranian law, there may in fact be limits on the Supreme Leader's power to which I am ignorant. If there are and those limits can be substantiated, I invite anyone provide some source.
    – user5155
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 17:19
  • "those same people are subject to the same set of laws, which usually include harsh punishments for abusing their power against ordinary citizens." Empirically, this is not true.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 21:50
  • @ohwilleke I really want to argue with that, but in my heart I know you're right.
    – user5155
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 22:28

We have confirmation now. The rockclimber who competed without a scarf about 6 weeks ago?

Her family house has been demolished by the government. Which claims it was unrelated.

I would also add that the change in behavior of the soccer team, between their first appearances - speech, no anthem - and subsequent avoidance of the subject and singing of the anthem again seems to strongly point to threats of consequences made between those 2 events.

  • One of the sources linked there says "Female athletes must also abide by the dress code when they are officially representing Iran in competitions abroad." So it's possible only female athletes who are representing Iran need to abide by the dress code.
    – Allure
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 5:56

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