DUBAI, Dec 26 (Reuters) – Iranian authorities rerouted a flight bound for Dubai on Monday and prevented the wife and daughter of former national soccer team captain Ali Daei, who has supported anti-government protests, from leaving the country, state media reported.
Amid a concerted clampdown, Tehran also said the arrests in Iran of citizens linked to Britain reflected its “destructive role” in the more than three months of unrest.
People from across Iran’s social spectrum have joined one of the most sustained challenges to the country’s ruling theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, relying heavily on social media platforms – which the government is trying to shut down – to organise and spread news of demonstrations.
A service that could help Iranians circumvent internet restrictions is Starlink, a satellite-based broadband service operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Musk said on Monday that the company was getting close to having 100 active Starlink satellite receivers inside Iran.
Meanwhile Daei’s wife was banned from travelling abroad, Iran’s judiciary said, after authorities ordered the Mahan Air plane she had been a passenger in to land on Iran’s Kish Island in the Gulf.
“I really don’t know the reason for this. Did they want to arrest a terrorist?” Daei told semi-official news agency ISNA.
After he voiced support for the protests on social media, authorities this month shut down a jewellery shop and a restaurant he owned.
The protests were triggered by the Sept. 16 death in detention of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian held for wearing “inappropriate attire” under Iran’s strict Islamic dress code for women.
Iran has accused Western countries, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting the unrest, allegations accompanied by arrests of dozens of dual nationals, part of an official narrative designed to shift blame away from the Iranian leadership.
Asked by a reporter to comment on Sunday’s announcement of the arrest of seven people linked to Britain, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: “Some countries, especially the one you mentioned, had an unconstructive role regarding the recent developments in Iran.
“Their role was totally destructive and incited the riots.”
The British foreign ministry had said it was seeking further information from Iranian authorities on the reported arrests.
Rights group HRANA says about 18,500 people have been arrested during the unrest. Government officials say most have been released.
Besides arrests, authorities have imposed travel bans on dozens of artists, lawyers, journalists and celebrities for endorsing the protests.
HRANA also said that as of Dec. 25, 507 protesters had been killed, including 69 minors, as well as 66 members of the security forces.
Iran’s troubled rial currency on Monday fell to a record low of 415,400 against the dollar, according to forex site Bonbast.com. It has lost about 24% of its value since the protests began, as Iranians grappling with official inflation of about 50% buy dollars and gold in an effort to protect their savings.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom, additional reporting by Akanksha Khushi in Bengaluru;
Editing by Mark Heinrich and John Stonestreet
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