The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatened the families of players on Iran's World Cup soccer team with imprisonment and torture if the players do not "behave" before their match against the United States on Tuesday, according to a new report.
A source told CNN that players were called to a meeting with members of the IRGC after the team failed to sing the country's national anthem during their opening match against England last week. The IRGC reportedly warned afterward that players who did not sing the national anthem or who participated in any political protest against the Iranian government would leave their families subject to "violence and torture" as retribution.
On Friday, ahead of their game against Wales, the team sang the nation's anthem.
"There are a large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players," the source told CNN, adding that players are not allowed to meet with foreigners during the World Cup.
The Portuguese coach of Iran's team, Carlos Quieroz, who reportedly met separately with IRGC officers, has said players can protest at the World Cup within FIFA regulations.
Widespread protests in Iran began on September 17 at the funeral of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by Iran's "morality police" for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely on September 13. She died three days later.
While Iranian officials have said that Amini died of a heart attack, her family says she was "severely beaten" while in custody. A lawyer for the family said "respectable doctors" believe she was beaten while in custody. Her death has sparked weeks of protests across Iran, in which some women have burned their hijabs and publicly chopped off their hair.
An Iranian general acknowledged for the first time Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the protests.
The captain of Iran's national men's soccer team spoke in support of the anti-government protests last week.
"I would like to express my condolences to all bereaved families in Iran," Ehsan Hajsafi said at a news conference. "They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions."
"We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy," he added. "We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them."
Meanwhile, Iran state media have called for the United States to be removed from the World Cup after the United States Soccer Federation supported the anti-government protesters by posting an edited version of Iran's flag on its social-media platforms. For 24 hours, the federation posted the Iranian flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic to show "support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights."
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