Ex-Iran official threatens Iranians visiting Qatar for World Cup with kidnapping

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A former Iranian official on Thursday threatened Iranians opposed to the regime who may visit Qatar for the 2022 World Cup with kidnapping.

“Dear regime changers, which of you will visit Qatar?” Alireza Vahabzadeh, a former health ministry official, wrote on Twitter, using the hashtag “Zam.”

The hashtag referred to France-based Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was abducted in Iraq in 2019 and executed in Iran a year later.

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The threat comes amid anti-regime protests that have rocked Iran since the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16.

Iran has increasingly targeted journalists and dissidents abroad in recent years, particularly in neighboring countries.

Earlier this week, Iran International, a UK-based news channel aimed at Iranian viewers, said it was “shocked and deeply concerned” by threats from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) against its journalists in London.

“Two of our British-Iranian journalists have, in recent days, been notified of an increase in the threats to them. The Metropolitan Police have now formally notified both journalists that these threats represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families,” Iran International said in a statement.

In 2020, Iran kidnapped two dissidents – Jamshid Sharmahd and Habib Chaab – on foreign soil. They are both currently in prison in Iran where they face the risk of execution.

The World Cup kicks off in Qatar on November 20. Iran is placed in Group B, along with England, the US and Wales.

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