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Politics

Iran Condemned After Flight Rerouted, Football Star’s Family Ordered Off

December 28, 2022
3 min read
Iran Condemned After Flight Rerouted, Football Star’s Family Ordered Off

Condemnations are pouring in after an airplane flying from Tehran to Dubai was rerouted earlier this week and the family of an Iranian soccer legend who has expressed support for the ongoing nationwide protests ordered off.

The 53-year-old Ali Daei, known as the "monarch" (Shahriyar in Persian) of Iranian football, is a former German Bundesliga striker whose 109 goals at international level were long unsurpassed until Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo overtook him last year.

The ex-footballer said his wife and daughter departed from Tehran legally on December 26 before their Mahan Air flight made an unannounced stop on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf, where they were questioned by authorities. He said his family had planned to travel to Dubai and return next week.

"Thank God their plane was not hit by enemy missiles," Daei said in an interview, referring to a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) after it took off from Tehran in January 2020All 176 people onboard Flight PS752 were killed.

Hamed Esmaeilion, the spokesperson of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, urged the UN's civil aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to investigate the matter.

Esmaeilion drew a parallel with Belarus’s forced landing of a passenger jet in Minsk in May 2021. The ICAO established that Belarus’s authorities manufactured a false bomb threat to force Ryan Air Flight 4978 to land in the Belarusian capital for the purpose of detaining dissident Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend. Many countries condemned the action ordered by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a "state hijacking" of a passenger aircraft.

"@icao you had an emergency meeting and investigation when Lukashenko forced #flight4978 to land in Minsk 21 months ago. Do you know what happened to flight 063 of Mahan Air yesterday? React if there is no double standards at @icao," Esmaeilion tweeted.

"@icao this is day 2 after Mahan Air flight 063's incident. No emergency meeting? No investigation? No punishments? Not even a condemnation? Remember Ryan Air flight 4978? Remember #PS752? No one should remind you your duties for safer skies," he wrote a day later.

Hamid Farokhnejad, an Iranian actor, writer and director who has recently left Iran, referred to the 2010 capture of Sunni insurgent leader Abdolmalek Rigi on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan.

"The government that you once admired for forcing down Rigi from the sky has reached a point where it is afraid of Ali Daei's wife and children," Farokhnejad said in a tweet.

"Ali Daei is a legend of the people and is respected by the whole world,” actress Mahnaz Afshar said.

“If you did this with the wife and children of such a person, what would you do to the wives and children of the helpless people who no one will ever hear about?" she asked.

A growing number of Iranian celebrities have voiced support for the protests, with Islamic Republic officials accusing them of "fanning the flames of the riots." Some of them have been thrown behind bars, including well-known actors.

After joining a three-day nationwide strike in December, the authorities closed Daei’s jewelry store and restaurant in Tehran, and hard-liners in the Islamic Republic have called for severe judicial actions against the former footballer.

Security forces have violently cracked down on the demonstrations, killing at least 469 people, including 63 children, according to one human rights group.

At least 18,000 others have been detained. Dozens have been handed capital punishment or are facing charges that carry a death sentence. Iran carried out the first two executions earlier this month, triggering international condemnation.

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