Soccer Star Says His Family Stopped From Leaving Iran for Supporting Protests
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A prominent former soccer player in Iran who has expressed support for anti-government protests said his wife and daughter were prevented from leaving the country on Monday after their plane made an unannounced stopover en route to Dubai.
Ali Daei, who had his own passport briefly confiscated earlier this year, said his wife and daughter had departed from the capital, Tehran, legally before the flight made an unannounced stop on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf, where they were questioned by Iranian authorities.
He said his daughter had been released but the doors to the flight were closed by then. He said his family had planned to travel to Dubai and return next week.
The flight-tracking website Flightradar24 showed Mahan Air Flight W563 being diverted to Kish Island, part of Iran, before traveling onward to Dubai a couple hours later.
There was no comment from the airline or Iranian authorities.
The semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guards, said a travel ban had been imposed on Mr. Daei’s wife earlier this month because of her support for the protests. It said she had tried to illegally bypass the ban, without elaborating, and that her final destination was the United States.
Mr. Daei is one of several Iranian celebrities who have come out in support of the protests, which were set off by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September. The Kurdish woman died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
The protests rapidly spread across the country and escalated into calls for the overthrow of the theocracy established after the 1979 revolution, making it one of the biggest challenges to clerical rule in over four decades.
At least 507 protesters have been killed and more than 18,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not released figures for those killed or arrested.
Iran has also executed some protesters, including a 23-year-old man who was publicly hanged earlier this month.
Before his passport was confiscated, Mr. Daei, a top international goal scorer and former Iranian team captain, had urged the government on social media to “solve the problems of the Iranian people rather than using repression, violence and arrests.”