Security boosted as fans brace for politically charged USA vs Iran match
Diplomatic foes the US and Iran face off on the pitch at the World Cup on Tuesday night, in a match that some Iranians fear may see further run-ins with stadium security or clashes with pro-government fans over raging protests back home.
The contest between the two nations that severed ties more than 40 years ago will be held with increased security to prevent a flare-up of tensions over the unrest that has gripped Iran since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September.
In a show of solidarity before the match, the US Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag – without the emblem of the Islamic Republic – leading Tehran to complain to Fifa, according to state media.
Qatar, which has strong ties with Washington and friendly relations with Tehran, has staked its reputation on delivering a smooth World Cup, beefing up security at Iran games and banning some items deemed inflammatory, such as Iran’s pre-Revolution flag.
When Iran beat Wales on Friday, security teams were deployed to “break up a small number of altercations” between Iranian fans outside the stadium, a Qatari official said, adding that the incidents were dealt with “swiftly” to contain tensions.
“I will not attend the game on Tuesday since I do not feel safe in Qatar,” said Iranian-Canadian Azi, declining to give her last name and who was wearing a T-shirt declaring “Women, Life, Freedom” – a slogan of the Iran protests.
“Qatar is conducting the same censorship system as what is going on in Iran. Also, Fifa is to take the blame,” she told Reuters about being stopped by stadium security for her attire.
Hila Yadegar (37) plans to be at the match to show support for protesters even though she and her husband were both briefly held by stadium guards at the Iran-Wales match and despite voicing similar unease over security in the Gulf Arab state.
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“I put a chair behind our room in the hotel even though it was locked,” said Yadegar, who works in a hospital in Canada.
The Qatar official, when asked about fans’ security concerns and complaints over restrictions, said authorities would ensure every match at the World ...