Human Rights

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Iranian Goalkeeper Banned from Soccer for Six Months for Wearing “SpongeBob” Pants

Iran has suspended one of its national soccer stars for wearing SpongeBob SquarePants-themed pants, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Goalkeeper Sosha Makani, a member of Iran’s 2014 World Cup team who plays for Persepolis in Tehran, has been banned from the sport for six months by the committee in charge of monitoring the morality of Iran’s football federation for wearing bright yellow pants that at least one news agency compared to the cartoon character.


Makani was arrested and briefly jailed earlier this year for posting pictures of himself along with women who had their hair uncovered, which was considered “indecent” by authorities. He defended himself by claiming that his account was hacked and that he had not posted the pictures.

A video of Makani dancing with one of the women in the photos subsequently emerged.

Makani’s punishment has raised further concerns among activists that “an increasing sensitivity towards dress and appearance on the part of Iranian authorities amounts to an intrusion into people’s private lives,” The Guardian reported. In another recent example, the well-known Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti faced calls to have her banned from movies after a photograph was published that showed a feminist tattoo on her arm.

Makani isn’t the only prominent Iranian soccer player to run into such trouble. Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of Iran’s female soccer team, was barred from traveling abroad to compete with the national team last September after her husband confiscates her passport. Iranian law gives Ardalan’s husband the right to prevent her from leaving the country.

The crackdown appears to be part of the Iranian regime’s continuing assault on freedoms, which has picked up even further since the nuclear deal was reached last year.

The New York Times reported in November that Iranians hoping that the nuclear deal would lead to a rapprochement with the West had been “jolted with a series of increasingly rude awakenings,” including increased anti-American activity and a further erosion of rights. The Times report was prompted by the arrests of several prominent Iranian journalists and businessmen with ties to the United States.

Iran arrested eight women, including well-known model Elham Arab, for posting pictures of themselves on Instagram without proper hair-coverings last month. Two Iranian poets were sentenced to jail and 99 lashes each in October for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. The following month, reports surfaced that Iranian actress Sadaf Taherian was forced to flee the country after she posted pictures of herself with her hair uncovered on social media.

[Photo: Hamed Malekpour / WikiCommons ]