On Tuesday, October 16, Iranian women were officially allowed into a stadium to watch a football match following a decades-long ban.
The small contingent of 150 women attended the friendly between Iran and Bolivia at Tehran’s Azadi (“Freedom”) Stadium, despite vehement and continuing opposition from the country’s religious conservatives.
The female football fans were handpicked by Iran’s football federation and were mostly athletes themselves. They entered the stadium via specific entrances reserved for them and sat in specially-reserved areas. They also had access to toilet facilities exclusively for their use.
Reformist and moderate media and newspapers lamented the fact that only a limited number of women had been allowed to watch the game, but they applauded the federation’s “step forward.”
Conservatives have long stood against the idea of women being allowed into stadiums to watch football, and the recent measure taken by the federation did nothing to change their minds. “When a woman goes to the stadium and sees half-naked men, it's a sin,” said Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s chief prosecutor, the day after the game. "The presence of women in stadiums is harmful and there's no religious justification for it.” He warned that action will be taken "if such moves continue.”
Women have been banned from entering stadiums where men are present — either as members of the audience or athletes — since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. As recently as September 27, two young women were arrested as they tried to enter Azadi Stadium to watch a football game. Over the last 40 years, women have persistently staged protests outside Azadi and other stadiums, peacefully demanding their right to watch sporting competitions, a right that is enshrined in the Olympic Charter and upheld by most sportiting federations around the globe.
Girls and women have also disguised themselves as men to enter stadiums in order to support their teams, often putting themselves at great personal risk.
Despite the intense and heated opposition to the recent move to allow women in the stadium, the spokesman for the football federation said that women might possibly be permitted to watch the Asian Champions League (AFC) match between Iran’s Persepolis football team and Qatar’s Al-Sadd, scheduled for Tuesday, October 23.
By the way, Iran won the game 2-1.
A citizen journalist sent these photographs to IranWire
More on the ban of Iranian women from stadiums:
Women Arrested as Authorities Step up CCTV Surveillance at Azadi Stadium, September 28, 2018
Women Enter Stadium as Fans Refuse to Go Home, June 20, 2018
The Poet, the Woman and the Football Fan, December 31, 2017
Is Khamenei Afraid to Contradict Grand Ayatollahs?, December 13, 2017
Ayatollah Gives Thumbs Down to Women in Stadiums, December 12, 2017
Iranian Women Banned from “Freedom” Stadium — Again, September 6, 2017
"I Was There!": Defying the Ban on Women in Stadiums, February 17, 2017
The Girl Who Sneaked into Azadi Stadium, May 16, 2016
Women in Stadiums: The Ban Continues — Except for a Select Few, February 18, 2016
"Women’s presence in stadiums promotes prostitution", June 15, 2015