Qatar has been cooperating with Iran on an effort to control which media outlets cover the World Cup in a bid to ensure the event is beneficial to the Iranian regime.
An audio tape obtained by Iran International reportedly contains discussions between a Revolutionary Guard general and a group of media managers affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard discussing how to ensure the world’s largest sporting even paints Tehran in a positive light, the outlet reported Sunday.
The recording, which Iran International reported was from Nov. 15, features General Ghasem Ghoreyshi, who tells the group that “anti-revolutionaries” have purchased “5,330 tickets” to the World Cup, adding that “our boys have checked the list of the ticket holders and at least 500 people” who have purchased tickets are known opponents of the regime.
Ghoresyshi appears to be referring to authorities in Qatar, who reportedly shared a list of Iranian ticket purchase with the IRGC. However, Ghoresyshi also expressed disappointment in Qatari authorities when asked if rumors that tickets had been canceled are true, saying that the country has not fully followed through on that promise.
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A soccer fan holds a flag from Iran prior to the World Cup Group B soccer match between Wales and Iran, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
(AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
“Qatar has two different conducts with us – one is a positive response, and it has promised to do that [cancel tickets], but usually they don’t fully deliver,” he said in the recording. “They told us give us the names [of unwanted people], and we will solve the issue.”
Ghoresyshi also expressed frustration that Qatar had yet to ban Iran International from covering the World Cup, though another person attending the meeting interrupts the general to report that the outlet had announced they had been banned by Qatar from covering the event. Ghoreyshi expressed surprise at the development, saying Iran had discussed the issue with Qatar “the day before”.
Iran International, which has often reported on news unflattering to Iranian regime, announced earlier this month that its reporters and TV crew had been banned from the World Cup.
Later in the recording, Ghoreshyi boasts that Qatar had agreed to control spectators at the stadium, banning flags other than the official flag of the Islamic Republic from entering stadiums.
Two anti-riot police officers wave the Iranian flags during a street celebration after Iran defeated Wales in Qatar’s World Cup at Sadeghieh Square in Tehran, Iran.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
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Qatar reportedly came through on that promise during Iran’s second World Cup game against Wales, with stadium security stopping people with flags, such as Iran’s ancient flag featuring a lion and sun emblem, or a simple three-color flag. Some of those spectators with unapproved flags were even reportedly detained by Qatari police.
The report comes amid protests that have rocked the Iranian regime in recent months with the country’s authorities fearing that the protests could spill into the World Cup, where anti-regime spectators could display signs or engage in behavior that would be broadcasted back to fans back home.
Ghoreshyi admitted in the recording that Iran was paying the expenses of pro-regime fans to Qatar to attend the games and show support for the regime.
Iranian police arrive to disperse a protest to mark 40 days since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, whose tragedy sparked Iran’s biggest antigovernment movement in over a decade, in Tehran, Iran.
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Despite the efforts, some spectators attending Iran’s games have been heard singing anti-regime chants and booing during the Islamic Republic’s anthem.
The United States plays Iran on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. ET on Fox.