The families of Iran’s World Cup soccer team have been threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to “behave” ahead of the match against the USA on Tuesday, CNN cited a source involved in the security of the games as saying.
Following the refusal of Iranian players to sing the nation’s national anthem in their opening match against England on November 21, the source said that the players were called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The source said that they were told that their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or if they joined any political protest against the Tehran regime.
The source, who is closely monitoring Iran’s security agencies operating in Qatar over the World Cup period, said that dozens of officers from the IRGC had been drafted in to monitor the Iranian players who are not allowed to mingle outside the squad or meet with foreigners.
“There are a large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source said.
The players sang the anthem before their second game against Wales last Friday, unlike what they did during their match against England last week when they chose not to sing the national anthem in support of the protests.
Tensions in Iran, swept by more than two months of protests ignited by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for flouting strict dress codes, have been reflected inside and outside the stadiums.
"We wanted to come to the World Cup to support the people of Iran because we know it's a great opportunity to speak for them," said Shayan Khosravani, a 30-year-old Iranian-American fan who had been intending to visit family in Iran after attending the games but canceled that plan due to the protests.
But some say stadium security have stopped them from showing their backing for the protests. At Iran's Nov. 25 match against Wales, security denied entry to fans carrying Iran's pre-Revolution flag and T-shirts with the protest slogan "Woman, Life, Freedom" and "Mahsa Amini".
After the game, there was tension outside the ground between opponents and supporters of the Iranian government. Two fans who argued with stadium security on separate occasions over the confiscations told Reuters they believed that the policy stemmed from Qatar's ties with Iran.
A Qatari official told Reuters that "additional security measures have been put in place during matches involving Iran following the recent political tensions in the country."
When asked about confiscated material or detained fans, a spokesperson for the organizing supreme committee referred Reuters to FIFA and Qatar's list of prohibited items.
They ban items with "political, offensive, or discriminatory messages".