Mehran Samak, a 27-year-old man was killed in Iran’s northern Gilan province on Tuesday, shortly after the country’s football team was knocked out of the FIFA World Cup following a 2-0 defeat against the US.
The incident occurred in the port city of Anzali, situated along the Caspian Sea when Samak and his friends drove through the streets celebrating Iran’s loss.
Some reports suggested that he was hit by security forces for honking and celebrating Team Melli’s defeat, which prevented them from advancing to the knockout stage of the marquee football competition.
Tensions have been running high in the Islamic republic amid sweeping protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police in mid-September.
National team players have also been under tremendous pressure during the tournament with many protesters urging them not to play.
After Iran’s 2-0 loss to the US, there were reports of celebrations in many cities of Iran, including Anzali.
Samak’s killing has drawn widespread anger and outrage, including from one of the members of Iran’s national football team.
Police have denied reports that Samak was killed in their firing, saying “based on available evidence,” he was killed by a “hunting weapon,” adding that “a number of suspects were immediately detained.”
Col. Syed Jafar Jawanmardi, a police officer in Anzali, was quoted as saying by local media that “considering the sensitivity of the matter and the possibility of abuse by some elements and instigators,” an investigation was started with the coordination of judicial authorities.
Prosecutor’s office in Gilan confirmed that the young man was killed by bullet wounds.
“As soon as this suspicious incident happened, a court case was filed to deal with the issue and the prosecutor of Bandar Anzali is handling the case,” prosecutor Fallah Miri said in a statement.
Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, aerospace commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in remarks on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that more than 300 people have been killed in months-long protests marred by violence.
Human rights watchdogs, however, have put the number of fatalities at more than 500, including civilians and security forces.
The US and EU have imposed a slew of sanctions targeting officials and entities over what they say “repression of protests,” while Iranian authorities have accused Western states of “fomenting riots” in the country.