Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Iran women to attend football match freely for first time in decades

An Iranian woman watches her country play from a fan zone at the 2018 World Cup in Russia An Iranian woman watches her country play from a fan zone at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
Cary Erickson | 11 October, 2019, 10:28

They have previously been restricted from entering sports stadiums due to religious rules which say women must not witness masculine behaviour.

But FIFA said it has been "assured" by Iranian authorities that women will be able to attend matches.

The ban caught the world's attention last month after Sahar Khodayari, a 29-year-old activist dubbed the "Blue Girl", self-immolated for fear of being sentenced for dressing up as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran.

Iran had subsequently agreed to sell tickets to women for Thursday's match in Tehran, but human rights campaigners said the gesture was a "whitewash".

Amnesty International's Philip Luther, said that only allowing 3 500 tickets to be sold to women for the World Cup qualifier was "a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities meant to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari's tragic death".

- After a ban spanning decades, Iranian women are set to freely enter a football stadium for the first time on October 10 as Iran hosts Cambodia in a World Cup 2022 qualifier at Tehran's Azadi stadium.

FIFA has recently reiterated its position that women in Iran should be permitted to enter football stadiums to watch matches. Amnesty International criticized Iran's authorities for allotting so few tickets to women in a stadium that can seat 78,000. She told news service AFP that she last stepped into Azadi stadium about 25 years ago with her father.

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The Tehran derbies between Esteghlal and Persepolis, which are the absolute football highlights in Iran, will still not have any women in the stadium.

One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a football journalist.

Ahead of Qatar 2022, Iran has come under pressure from Federation Internationale de Football Association to allow women to attend this round of World Cup qualifiers.

More than 40 women have been arrested for attempting to enter football stadiums over the past two years, Amnesty said.

Using the hashtag #WakeUpFifa, women have taken to social media to demand more tickets.

The reformist camp has welcomed the decision to allow women into Thursday's match, while conservatives have argued that football is not a priority for women. Under the hash tag "Wake UpFIFA" some complained that only four of the stadium's 72 have been opened to women and the total number of women to be allowed into the venue was capped at 5,000.

The issue continues to be deeply divisive in Iran.