Family of Soccer Legend Ali Daei Snatched From Flight Leaving Iran

Iranian authorities ordered the landing of a flight carrying the family members of Ali Daei on Monday, accusing the Iranian football star and his relatives of participating in anti-government protests, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.

Daei’s wife and daughter were heading to Dubai from Tehran on a Mahan Air flight when the plane was instructed to land on Iran’s Kish Island, about hundred miles outside of the city, and they were removed from the flight. IRNA claims that authorities allowed them to return to Tehran.

During an ongoing wave of protests against Iran’s leadership—sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after she was arrested for violating Iran’s strict dress codes—Daei has been one of the country’s most outspoken stars. In addition to boycotting this year’s World Cup, the football manager closed a jewelry shop and restaurant he owns in solidarity with demonstrators for three days earlier this month. Both establishments were later shut down by the authorities.

Likewise, Iran’s official news organization has accused Daei and his family of “backing anti-revolutionary groups and rioters, and calling for strikes.” While another semi-official Tasnim news agency said Daei’s wife was banned from leaving Iran but had managed to board the flight illegally.

This latest incident involving Daei’s family is yet another example of the Islamic Republic tightening restrictions against dissenters in light of this year’s demonstrations. This month, Iran hung two men in connection to protests. While social media has spent the past few months speculating how many protestors the state has ordered to be killed, these are the first confirmed executions.

So far, neither Daei nor family have responded publicly to the flight incident.

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