Operatives from Iran‘s military have threatened to imprison and torture the families of Iranian World Cup soccer players if the players don’t “behave” during their highly anticipated match against the United States in Qatar on Tuesday, according to a report.
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) monitoring the behavior of Iran‘s national team conveyed the threat in a meeting with players, a source closely watching the activity of Iranian security agencies inside Qatar told CNN.
The Washington Times was unable to immediately verify the claim. CNN cited the source as saying IRGC members called the Iranian players to a meeting after the players had refused to sing the Islamic republic’s national anthem in their opening match against England on Nov. 21.
The source told CNN that Iran has drafted dozens of IRGC officers to monitor Iranian players, who were told their families will face “violence and torture” if the players do not sing the anthem, or if they join any political protest against the Iranian regime.
Iranian players sang the Islamic republic’s anthem before their second game against Wales on Friday.
Geopolitical tensions, questions of human rights violations and protests in Iran loomed large ahead of its game against the U.S.
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If Iran‘s most recent match is any indication, the heated political divide among fans of Team Melli, or national team, who have traveled to the tournament threatened to take center stage at the game, where security was expected to be tight.
Iran‘s divisions were on display Friday as more than 40,000 fans gathered at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in a sold-out match against Wales. Some fans supporting the Iranian government harassed those protesting it in the stadium, according to The Associated Press.
Security guards reportedly seized flags, T-shirts and other items from fans expressing support for the protest movement gripping Iran. The demonstrations have sparked severe government crackdowns in the Islamic Republic in recent months after the September death of Mahsa Amini.