For the first time in 40 years, hundreds of Iranian women attended a professional domestic football match in Tehran, following a ban on women attending sports stadiums.
Five hundred women were granted access to Tehran’s Azadi stadium to watch a league match between Tehran-based Esteghlal FC and visiting team Sanat Mes Kerman FC, from the city of Kerman.
According to the Iranian Football Federation website, women were separated from men in the stadium and entered through a special entrance via a car park.
Iran’s ban on women attending sports stadiums is not written into law but was put in place shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. While Thursday marked the first time in over 40 years that Iranian female soccer fans were allowed to watch a domestic game, women have been able to attend a small number of national matches.
This year, Iranian women were allowed to share a landmark moment as Iran secured qualification for November’s World Cup in Qatar. Three years before that, thousands of women were permitted to attend a World Cup Qualifier game between Iran and Cambodia in 2019, following pressure from human rights groups and the sport’s world governing body, FIFA.
That year, FIFA had come under increasing pressure to force Iran to overturn its ban on women entering sports stadiums, following the death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari, a female fan who set herself on fire after she was denied access to a football stadium in Tehran.
Dubbed the “Blue Girl” on social media after the colours of her favourite Iranian football team, Esteghlal, Khodayari was charged with “openly committing a sinful act” by “appearing in public without a hijab” when she attempted to enter a stadium “dressed as a man” in March 2019.
Women on Thursday were heard chanting “Blue Girl” – a tribute to Khodayari years after her death. One shared a picture of Esteghlal fans and wrote that “Blue Girl” died so that “many blue girls can enter the stadium”.
- Staff Reporter