- Iran’s World Cup team did not sing their country’s national anthem in apparent solidarity with the protesters.
- They were then told their families would suffer “violence and torture” if they didn’t sing, a source told CNN.
- Protests have erupted across Iran in recent months, with the government backing down hard.
Iran threatened the families of its World Cup soccer team after the players refused to sing the country’s national anthem during their opening game in an apparent act of solidarity with protesters at home, a source told CNN.
The source, who is involved in World Cup security and monitors Iran’s security forces in Qatar during the games, told CNN the players were taken to a meeting with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards after the first match.
They were told their families would face “violence and torture” if they didn’t sing the national anthem, or if they protested at all, the source said.
The team then sang the national anthem leading up to their second match, on 25 November.
The source told CNN that during the Qatar tournament, the team was watched by dozens of members of the Revolutionary Guards and they were unable to meet players from other teams or anyone who was not part of their team.
“There are a large number of Iranian security agents in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source told CNN.
The source also said Iran sent “hundreds” of supporting actors to the team’s first game “to create a false sense of support and favor among the fans.”
Iran is playing against the US on Monday night, and the source said Iran plans to send more actors, “in the thousands”.
Protests have erupted across Iran in recent months following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody in September. Amini was charged with not wearing a hijab properly, as required by the Iranian government’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The UN says thousands of people have been detained for peaceful protest. About 300 people, including 40 children, have been killed, according to the UN.
Protests have also involved Iranian women, both online and in physical protests, who have removed their hijabs and cut their hair.