The International Football Federation (FIFA) has responded to IranWire’s email regarding Sahar Khodayari, the young woman who set herself on fire in front a courthouse in Tehran last week and died in the hospital on Friday, September 6.

“We are aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it,” wrote the federation. “FIFA convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran.”

The warnings resemble previous threats issued by Iranian security agents and officials to journalists working on sensitive topics deemed to be a threat to national security — as well as to families of political prisoners wanting to find out about their loved ones and want the Iranian public to know what they have experienced.

Regarding FIFA, although it responded to IranWire, the international football governing body has been limited in its overall response to the media about the tragedy: It never officially reacted to the arrest and trial of Sahar Khodayari, a football fan who was detained when she tried to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch a football game. She later set herself on fire to protest against the ban on women entering stadiums and against her treatment by the security forces and the judiciary. Not only has FIFA has not issued a formal statement, it has not even officially contacted Iran’s Football Federation or the National Olympic Committee regarding the incident.

Earlier in August, when IranWire appealed to FIFA about its position regarding the Iranian football federation and the country’s ban on women entering stadiums, it received only ambiguous answers.

In June, FIFA’s President Giovanni Infantino wrote in an official capacity to Mehdi Taj, the president of the Iranian Football Federation. He gave Iran a deadline of July 15, 2019 to “allow Iranian women to enter all stadiums across the country...without any conditions,” aiming to ensure women could purchase tickets and attend World Cup qualifying matches in September 2019. 

In his letter, Infantino emphasized that, according to FIFA’s code of conduct, the Iranian Football Federation cannot discriminate against any individual based on gender, race, ethnicity or religion.

Nevertheless, stadium doors remain closed to Iranian women. The football federation has tried to fool FIFA by allowing handpicked women into stadiums for a few Iranian national team matches or when officials of FIFA, such as Infantino himself, are present. It is expected that this con game will be repeated on October 10, when Iran plays against Cambodia in the qualifying games for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

For now, it would appear that expressing its condolences to “the family and friends of Sahar” and calling “on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight” is as far as FIFA is willing to go.

At the same time, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council issued warnings to members of the press hoping to cover the tragic death of Khodayari. On September 10, hours after her death was officially announced — and after her family had been warned not to go public with the news — journalists and editors began receiving text messages. The full text read: 


Confidential/Only FYI/Not for Publication

Greetings. Condolences on the arrival of Hussein’s Ashura [the lunar Islamic month when the Shias mourn the martyrdom the third Imam], and wishing that the mourning by our esteemed colleagues would be accepted [by God].

1. The self-immolation and the death of the late Sahar Khodayari is a sad and painful event.

2. By focusing on this event, certain foreign media and security agencies have started a vast effort to turn the manner of her death into a social campaign of protest.

It is necessary that our esteemed colleagues, especially the media published on Wednesday (tomorrow), treat this event with more tact and vigilance and seriously avoid dramatizing it or using terms such as “Blue Girl”, etc.”


Read more about the Supreme National Security Council's comments on the death of Sahar Khodayari



Related Coverage:

Woman Who Set Herself on Fire Dies, September 9, 2019

“The Blue Girl” Who Set Herself on Fire — And the Angry Backlash, September 9, 2019

Banned from Entering Stadium, Young Woman Sets Herself on Fire, September 4, 2019

Iran Attempts to Fool FIFA, August 27, 2019

Iran Jails Female Football Fans, August 16, 2019

Decoding Iran’s Politics: Football and State Interference, June 11, 2019


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