UK should help if Iran’s international footballers make asylum bid, MP suggests

Britain should support Iran’s international footballers if they seek asylum following their “very bold and brave political statement”, according to a senior MP.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the risk to the players’ lives is “serious and severe” – before praising the “bravery” of protesters in Iran and Iranians in Qatar.

Iran’s players stood in silence during their country’s national anthem ahead of their 6-2 World Cup loss to England on Monday.

It was viewed as a stand of solidarity with those being mistreated, imprisoned and killed while protesting for gender equality in Iran.

Alicia Kearns
Alicia Kearns (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Iran captain Ehsan Hajsafi also called for change and sent condolences to bereaved families ahead the group B fixture.

Anti-government protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

Ms Kearns, asked whether the UK should offer asylum to footballers who want it after the World Cup, told the PA news agency: “It’s a dangerous one to call on governments to proactively offer asylum.

“But if we are approached by Iranian players seeking asylum, then of course we should be looking to provide that support to them because we know they have chosen to make a very bold and brave political statement and we know the risks to their lives are serious and severe.”

Ms Kearns added: “The bravery is absolutely incredible that we’re seeing every day on the streets of Iran, but also what we’re seeing in Qatar from those who are from Iran.

“I think what’s really important is we all amplify their voices and do everything we can because the Iranian government will be seeking to silence them.”

The House of Commons last week heard that more than 14,000 people have been detained in Iran so far, with more than 300 deaths recorded.