Iranian soccer legend Ali Daei says his family ordered the flight to take off | Protests News

The former international striker said his wife and daughter were traveling from Tehran to Dubai when the flight was diverted.

Iranian soccer legend Ali Daei said a plane traveling from Tehran to Dubai had been diverted and his wife and daughter had left, according to Iranian news organizations.

Daei, one of Iran’s most famous footballers and a former German Bundesliga striker whose 109 goals internationally was unbeatable for a long time until Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed him, said his wife and daughter had flown on a Mahan Air flight, taking off from Imam of the Iranian capital. Khomeini Airport on Monday, headed for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported.

But the plane diverted and landed on Iran’s Kish island in the Gulf, where “Ali Daei’s wife and daughter got off the plane,” state news agency IRNA said.

Daei, who has expressed support for the protest movement that has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, following her arrest in Tehran by morality police for an alleged violation of the strict dress code for country’s women, said he was trying to arrange for his family to return to Tehran.

“My daughter and my wife were taken off the flight, but they were not arrested,” Daei said, according to an ISNA report.

“If they had been banned [from leaving], the passport police system should have shown it: Nobody has given me an answer on this. I really don’t know what is the reason for these things,” he said.

“My wife and daughter were going to Dubai for a few days trip and back,” he added.

Flight tracking website Flightradar24 showed that Mahan Air flight W563 diverted to Kish Island before traveling to Dubai a couple of hours later.

Citing the judiciary, IRNA said that “Daei’s wife had promised to inform the relevant institutions of his decision before leaving the country,” following his “association with anti-Islamic revolution groups and rioters and calling for the strike”.

There was no comment from the airline or Iranian authorities.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guards, said a travel ban was placed on Daei’s wife earlier this month because of her support for the protests. She said that she tried to illegally circumvent the ban, without elaborating, and that her final destination was the United States. The reports did not name his wife or his daughter, who are not public figures.

Protests have gripped Iran since the September death of Iranian-Kurdish Amini.

Daei, on September 27, used social media to call on the government to “solve the problems of the Iranian people instead of using repression, violence and arrests.”

In October, Daei told the Agence France-Presse news agency that police confiscated his passport upon his return from abroad, before returning it to him a few days later.

In early December, his jewelry store and restaurant in posh north Tehran were sealed off, with local media reporting that they were ordered to close for “cooperation with anti-revolutionary groups in cyberspace to disturb the peace and business of the market.”

Daei, whose glittering career included playing in Iran’s 2-1 World Cup win against the United States in 1998, said he has been the target of threats after supporting protests sparked by Amini’s death.

The protests have spread across the country and have posed the biggest challenge to the Iranian authorities in decades. At least 507 protesters have been killed and more than 18,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), a group that has closely followed the unrest.

Iranian authorities have not released figures for deaths or arrests.

The leaderless protesters, rallying under the banner of “women, life, freedom”, say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression by a clerical establishment.

Iranian authorities have blamed the unrest on foreign adversaries such as the United States and Israel.

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