December 7, 2022 | Flash Brief

Tehran and Doha Team Up to Repress Iranian Dissidents at World Cup

December 7, 2022 | Flash Brief

Tehran and Doha Team Up to Repress Iranian Dissidents at World Cup

Latest Developments 

Iran and Qatar have teamed up to suppress dissent against Tehran at the World Cup, which overlaps with sustained protests against the brutal regime in Iran. Tehran reportedly worked to prevent dissidents from attending the games, while critics of the Islamist regime watching the games in Iran and in Qatar faced harsh treatment.

Expert Analysis

“The World Cup has helped put Iran’s brutality on a world stage. Tehran exported its repression to Qatar to prevent the tournament from giving visibility to protesters. Tehran’s suppression of dissident soccer fans further demonstrates that Iranians need a different government.” – David May, FDD Research Manager

Harassing Dissident Iranian Soccer Fans

Iran’s national team caused a stir on November 21 when its members did not sing the national anthem prior to kick-off. After members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly threatened their family members, players half-heartedly sang the anthem at the following game. Following the U.S.-Iran match on November 29, security officers at the World Cup pinned and detained a spectator who was chanting, “Women, life, freedom” in solidarity with the Iranian protest movement. Pro-regime Iranians and local stadium security seized items, such as shirts and flags, from fans expressing solidarity with protesters in Iran.

In Iran, security forces killed a 27-year-old celebrating his country’s loss to the United States. Security forces in several cities opened fire on Iranians who were rejoicing in their national team’s loss.

IRGC Working to Ban Iranian Dissidents

A hacktivist group claimed that files from Iran’s state-owned Fars News Agency show that the IRGC — in coordination with Qatar — organized a campaign to ban Iranian dissidents from attending the World Cup. One audio file features General Ghasem Ghoreyshi, deputy commander of the paramilitary Basij, a branch of the IRGC, saying, “our boys have checked the list of the ticket holders and at least 500 people are known opponents” of the regime. The files also show that the IRGC asked Qatar to revoke the credentials of Iran International, a London-based media network that frequently broadcasts anti-regime voices. Doha swiftly obliged.

Iranian-Qatari Information-Sharing

The level of information-sharing between Doha and Tehran should raise eyebrows in Washington. Without intervention from the Biden administration, Qatar may feel emboldened to share other sensitive information with Iran, such as lists of U.S. nationals who visit Qatar or even lists of military personnel or hardware. Qatar, which hosts a U.S. military base, is one of the top consumers of American military technology.

Related Analysis 

The World Cup Won’t Clean Up Qatar’s Image,” by David May

Iran Arrests Niece of Supreme Leader as Death Toll of Protesters Mounts,” FDD Flash Brief


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