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Unrest in Iran follows soccer fans to World Cup in Doha

U.S. defeats Iran to advance in World Cup
U.S. advances to next round in World Cup with victory over Iran 04:11

As the U.S. men's soccer team faced Iran at the World Cup in Doha Tuesday night, tensions ran high in and out of Al Thumama Stadium between Iranians voicing support for the anti-regime protests in Iran, and pro-regime supporters.

One video posted online appeared to show a group of pro-regime fans harassing a man wearing a shirt reading "Women, Life, Freedom," a key slogan of protesters in Iran. In another video, the same man said frantically, "They attacked us! They attacked her, they attacked this girl… They just started attacking us… because of the T-shirts." 

Rasmus Tantholdt, an international correspondent from TV2 Denmark, tweeted the video, along with another clip appearing to show Qatari security agents trying to stop him from filming a woman shouting, "Women, Life, Freedom." "This is crazy, they are attacking people out there… small kids," he is heard saying in the video.

Iran Football Fans Cheer Men's National Team In World Cup Match Against USA
Iranian football fans watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match against the United States in a government center on November 29, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Images

Emblematic of the divisions, an AFP video showed scuffles breaking out among pro-and anti-regime Iranians outside the stadium after the U.S. match. The footage showed a woman wearing a T-shirt with the protest slogan "Woman, life, freedom" being harassed by Iranian men as she gave a televised interview.

Several other Iranian fans told CBS News they didn't dare bring their T-shirts and flags reading, "Women, Life, Freedom!" to the stadium last night because before the Iran-Wales game last Friday, stadium officials had either confiscated the items or barred them from entering. 

"They didn't let us in," said Ali Seyedi from Toronto, "and it looks like Qatari government is working with the Iranian regime very well. … This it not the way it should be." 

According to the rules of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, "political, religious or personal messages or slogans" are banned. CBS News has asked FIFA for clarification, but it has not responded. 

Last night, a sea of Iranian flags could be seen – but only the official flag of the Islamic Republic, not Iran's pre-revolutionary flag featuring a lion and sun, a sign that symbols of opposition would not be tolerated on the premises. 

Many Iranian fans at the stadium also expressed concerns that pro-regime supporters and plainclothes Iranian agents were filling the crowds, filming and identifying protesters.

London-based Iran International has reported it obtained documents showing Iranian authorities were secretly collaborating with Qatar to control who attends the World Cup and to limit any displays of dissent. 

The report said that in an audio clip, General Ghasem Ghoreyshi, a deputy commander of Iran's Basij paramilitary forces, said "anti-revolutionaries" had bought "5,330 tickets" to the tournament, adding that "our boys have checked the list of the ticket holders and at least 500 people" are known opponents of the Iranian regime.

Ghoreyshi also said the regime is paying the expenses of supporters to attend Iran's games at the World Cup in Qatar and to show support for the Islamic Republic, according to the Iran International report. 

An Iranian fan who was waving an official Islamic Republic flag Tuesday night said he received neither free airfare nor World Cup tickets to fly to Doha from Iran. 

"We came only to encourage the team of the Islamic Republic of Iran," said the man, who identified himself as Mahmoud Kalampour from Bandar Abbas, Iran.  

When asked what he thinks of the "Women, Life, Freedom" chants, he responded, "It's better I don't get into it."

Some Iranian fans at the game Tuesday night were divided on which team to support. 

"We decided to just you know, root for the U.S. because of everything that is going on back in Iran, innocent people are being killed," said Iranian-American Simo Mozaffari.

Her husband Sam Fekrirad, added, "We are Iranian, proud Iranians. We've lived there, but we feel like if we support Iran here, we're supporting that regime."

But Sara Ghods of Washington, D.C. said she supported both teams. 

"I'm torn because my parents are Iranian and yet I was born in America, so there's always a clash of cultures, but I'm just so happy to be here." 

Iran Football Fans Cheer Men's National Team In World Cup Match Against USA
Iranian football fans watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match against the United States in a government center on November 29, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Images

Iran's national soccer team, known as Team Melli, was navigating tricky terrain: They were under pressure to stay in line with the regime or voice support for protesters in their homeland.

Before the team's first match, Captain Ehsan Hajsafi had expressed some support and the players abstained from singing the anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But in their second and third matches, they mostly mumbled along.

While Team Melli has many supporters in Iran, some protesters there see it as representative of the regime.  

When the team lost 0-1 to the United States Tuesday night, some anti-government protesters in Iran began dancing in the streets and honking their horns in Tehran and in several other cities.  

Activists said security agents opened fire on some of the celebrations, injuring several and fatally shooting 27-year-old Mehran Samak while in his car.

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