Iran’s female fans fear that state “watchers” are spying on them at World Cup matches

The woman was hysterical, standing outside the Khalifa International Stadium and crying.

She’s Iranian, and though she no longer lives in the country, she thought she’d met someone he knew: a man she thought was an Iranian government official whom she saw filming her and other women before and during England6-2 win vs Iran In the world Cup.

Where am I safe?

Another — we didn’t identify any of the women in this article in order to protect their security — says she saw a man in the stands on Monday with binoculars, who was constantly looking at the crowd instead of the field. She describes another man in a suit by himself, apparently photographing a group of veiled women behind him, then moving to another location, ostensibly to observe other sections of supporters.

Iranian women activists expected that these “monitors” or “spies” would be in Qatar and claim to represent the Iranian state.

Women are not legally able to attend football matches in Iran. However, they could in Doha, however, here, at the World Cup, many feel they are still being watched and controlled, and worry about potential repercussions. Online complaints have been reported via FIFAThe human rights grievance procedure, which allows people to submit reports online for examination by an “independent appraiser.”

Human rights researcher Emma Whaley said: “In the end, football is meant to be for everyone. Iranian women are in a country where they are allowed to attend football matches but instead can still control them.”

Open Courts, a movement aimed at ending discrimination against women in Iran, wrote to FIFA in September calling for Iran to be expelled from the tournament and the issue addressed.

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The letter read, “Without consequences against the Iranian federation and its leadership, we also legitimately fear that once the FIFA World Cup ends in December, the Islamic Republic will retaliate against women’s rights activists in open stadiums and football fans in general.”

Anti-regime protests broke out across Iran Since the death of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini in September. She died after being arrested by Iran’s “morality police”, a force used by the state to enforce Islamic dress, as she left a subway station after being accused of not covering her hair properly.

Iran faces the United States on Tuesday. Both of Iran’s first two matches at the World Cup – a 6-2 defeat at the hands of England and a 2-0 win over Wells – Taken over by pro and anti-government supporters who use the platform of a major tournament to get their feelings across.

Iranian players chose not to sing the national anthem A work that was blocked by Iranian state television Before facing England. Many moved their lips when it was played as Iran prepared to take on Wales, but the national anthem was booed wildly by many in the stands.

Women and men also say they were Detained in Qatar for wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom”. Inside the World Cup stadiums. Others say they were required to take them off before they could pass through security.

Items containing “political, offensive or discriminatory messages” are banned from stadiums at the tournament and security is regulated by the host country rather than FIFA.

“Women’s human rights are universal,” said a spokesperson for Fare, an anti-discrimination network in football. Whether they are expressed in a public square, soccer field or street, we respect women’s rights to assert them.

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“The fact that harmless banners and T-shirts were removed in stadiums during this World Cup, and some people say they have been arrested as a result, is a huge cause for concern.

Some of those targeted also assert that there are Iranian government forces present to ensure the removal of banners and T-shirts. We have no explicit confirmation of that.”

There are close links between Iran and Qatar. In December 2017, the Iranian and Qatar Football Associations signed a memorandum of understanding to “strengthen Qatari-Iranian relations,” according to Mehdi Taj, the president of the Iranian Football Association. The timing was important, coming just three months later Kingdom Saudi ArabiaUAE, Bahrain and Egypt Severing ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism – something Qatar vehemently denied.

Another four-year “memorandum of cooperation” was agreed in December 2021, after the blockade ends, allowing Iran and Qatar to work together to host friendlies and training camps.

“It will be interesting to see in the US game (against Iran), how many people are trying to continue to wear shirts or have banners and things to show their support? Because, in fact, people might be more afraid now,” Wali said.

“I think, as in the context of sport and human rights, if people don’t feel they can have security when going to this match, what’s the point of that? Sport should be a place where people have a platform where they can exercise their right to freedom of expression.

“It’s really powerful when you have something like the World Cup and a lot of people are watching, these women want to spread their message because they know everyone is watching. It makes it all the more clear that sport and human rights cannot be separated.”

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A Qatari government official said: For the safety of all those present at the World Cup, the State of Qatar has taken enhanced security measures during matches that witnessed noticeable high tensions among fans, including those related to the Iranian football team.

“Before each match, a risk assessment is carried out, and security resources are deployed at each stadium accordingly. As in all World Cups, items that could increase tensions and endanger the safety of fans are not permitted.

All security personnel in the stadiums belong to the State of Qatar and are present to ensure the safety of all attendees. There are no Iranian security personnel working as part of the Security and Safety Operations Committee (SSOC) for the World Cup.

“There were no notable incidents during Iran’s first match against England. After Iran’s second match, security teams were called in to break up a small number of off-field altercations between Iranian fans. These incidents were dealt with quickly and with appropriate force to calm tensions and ensure the safety of all fans attending the match. Officials will continue to ensure that every World Cup match in Qatar is safe and welcoming to all spectators.”

FIFA, the Iranian Football Federation and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have also been contacted for comment.

(Top photo: FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

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