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Iran seizes passport of star footballer Ali Daei for backing protests

Iran has confiscated the passport of former star footballer Ali Daei, local media reported Monday, after he criticised the “repression” of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death.

Iran has been gripped by nationwide demonstrations since the 22-year-old Kurdish woman’s death was announced on September 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Daei on September 27 called on Iran’s government to “solve the problems of the Iranian people rather than using repression, violence and arrests”. 

“The confiscation of Ali Daei’s passport is due to what he has written on Instagram in response to the death of Mahsa Amini,” reformist paper Hammihan reported.

Nicknamed “Shahriar” (king in Farsi), the former forward held the record for most international goals scored, at 109, until September 2021, when Cristiano Ronaldo overtook him.

Daei, 52, was one of Iran’s first players to compete in a European league, having played in the Bundesliga, first with Arminia Bielefeld before joining Bayern Munich then Hertha Berlin.

Hertha on Sunday tweeted that it was “dismayed looking at the current situation in Iran. Our former player Ali Daei is no longer permitted to leave the country because he has come out in favour of women’s rights.”

In remarks to the sports website Varzesh3 on Sunday, Daei’s brother Mohammad said: “Ali has given his whole life to raise the flag of Iran, he loves the country and its people and always speaks the truth.

“What happened to Ali is regrettable.”

A number of Iranian sportsmen as well as actors and filmmakers have thrown their weight behind the demonstrations, asking authorities to listen to the people’s demands.

On Thursday, local media reported that former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi was facing prosecution over his support for the protests.

The authorities have also seized the passports of singer Homayoun Shajarian and his wife, actress Sahar Dolatshahi, as well as that of filmmaker Mehran Modiri, the ILNA news agency reported Sunday.

On September 30, Iranian authorities arrested former football player Hossein Mahini over his support for the protests, accusing him of “encouraging riots”. He was reportedly released on bail early last week.

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