Iranian security forces attacked supporters of Traktor Sazi FC, the foremost soccer club in Tabriz, the capital of Iran’s Turkic East Azerbaijan province, highlighting mounting ethnic tension in the Islamic republic fuelled by economic hardship resulting from harsh international sanctions and controversial economic policies.
“The top officials of Iranian government promised to help survivors and build new houses for them in less than two months but as of now they have failed to do this job. The conditions are deteriorating in Varzaqan as the winter is coming and people cannot tolerate the cold weather,” Kabir News said in reporting the Azadi stadium incident.
"The team has taken on the symbolism of embodying the national identity of Azerbaijanis in Iran. They regard the team's victories as a means of peacefully defeating the enemies of Azerbaijan, and this has become a powerful rallying tool of ethno-nationalism in the region," said Farzin Farzad, executive director of the Network of Azerbaijani-Americans from Iran.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.