February 19, 2020
In a new letter addressed to the Islamic Republic authorities the international soccer body FIFA says Iranian women have to be allowed to enter all football stadiums across the country to watch men’s matches.
According to the local news websites, “House of Football” and “Mashreq News,” in the letter FIFA has stressed that the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) should provide relevant facilities for women to attend three forthcoming major soccer events in the country.
During the past two years, a limited number of Iranian women were allowed to watch only three football matches in their country. The clergy-dominated government has banned women from watching men’s sport since the 1979 Iranian revolution. FIFA’s efforts to break the ban have been only partially successful recently.
Now, FIFA has officially demanded Iran to allow women to watch “all matches” and allocate more seats to them in stadiums.
From next June onwards, Iranian women should also be allowed to attend all local football league matches across the country, and watch their favorite teams in action, FIFA has affirmed in its new letter.
The death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari, nicknamed as the “Blue Girl” after the main color of her favorite team last March, reignited the debate over the ban barring Iranian women from attending men’s sports matches.
Khodayari was arrested in March for attempting to enter a stadium to watch her favorite team play and was told by court officials she faced a six-month sentence behind bars. Desperate and devastated, she poured gasoline over her body and set it on fire, dying a few days later in hospital.
Many Iranian and non-Iranian social media users, as well as public figures, mourned her death and urged FIFA to act, pressing the Islamic Republic to allow Iranian women to attend soccer matches freely.
Under FIFA pressure and a month ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia in Tehran, the spokesman of President Hassan Rouhani’s Administration, Ali Rabieie, said on September 11 that, generally the Islamic Republic government is in favor of letting Iranian women enter the sports arenas.
In the coming months, Iran will host national teams of Bahrain, Iraq, and Hong Kong in the preliminary round of the World Cup qualification matches.
Football-starved Iranian women hope to get clearance to attend the national side matches against Hong Kong on March 28, Bahrain June 5, and Iraq June 10.
Meanwhile, in the AFC Championship games two Tehran clubs, Esteqlal (Esteghlal) and Perspolis, are set to host their counterparts in the capital city of Iran. Another Iranian club still in the AFC competition, Shahr Khodro FC, represents the city of Mashhad ruled by ultraconservative clerics not likely to allow women to attend any matches.
Reuters reported two months ago that the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic had committed itself in writing to make it possible for women to enter stadiums and watch local league championship games.
The Islamic Republic authorities have not yet responded to FIFA’s new letter.