Women Granted Right to Attend Soccer Matches in Iran

After four decades of banning women to attend men’s soccer games, Iran has lifted the ban and allowed women to live the fan experience and cheer on their teams within the stadium. Although it was not officially enacted into law, BBC explained that Iranian women have not been granted admission to men’s soccer stadiums since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Despite some small groups of women being given the green light to attend games in the past, human rights groups have viewed these occurrences as “publicity stunts” for self-interest.

According to The Guardian, initiatives were put in place to allow women to attend the recent game against Cambodia after human rights organization Amnesty International and FIFA advocated for these women. The initial steps to lift this ban were put in place as a result of a woman committing suicide by fire after being arrested for attempting to enter the stadium disguised as a man for a previous game. Sahar Khodayari, also known as “blue girl,” set herself on fire after discovering that she was potentially facing six months in prison for her attempt. Her death was a catalyst for public outcry against the sexist ban and urged advocates to take action.

Once word got out that this World Cup qualifier game was allowing women to be in attendance, thousands of Iranian women bought tickets for the special section in the Azadi Stadium. This was the first time tickets were available to the public rather than being strictly sold to men. The men’s team played against Cambodia, and these specialized tickets for women sold out within minutes. Despite their presence accounting for under five percent of the 78,000 seats within the Azadi Stadium, the women in attendance were overwhelmed with emotion for this opportunity. For instance, an Iranian sports reporter was overcome with excitement after witnessing the game. Another attendee tweeted although she had experienced this so late in her life, she’s also happy for the younger women who were also able to be at the game.

Courtesy: Twitter

According to CNN, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, views this feat as, “a very positive step forward, and one which FIFA, and especially Iranian girls and women, have been eagerly waiting for.” Infantino proceeded to discuss how this is only the beginning, and FIFA will continue to advocate for a “safe environment” for women who want to attend soccer matches. The name of the stadium, Azadi, literally translates to “freedom,” and the name can finally encompass its meaning with women regaining their rights. However, Human Rights Watch, or HRW, views this five percent cap on seats for women to be “discriminatory, deceptive, and dangerous”. HRW officials claim that this quota goes against FIFA’s constitution and human rights policy.

Before the game on Oct. 10, Iranian Twitter users used the hashtag #WakeUpFIFA to get the football organization’s officials to grant more access for women at the game. These requests were not honored, as 3,500 tickets were available to women, but Joyce Cook, FIFA’s head of education and social responsibility, said her company will “stand firm” to ensure women are represented and have access to future games.

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