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  • Red card! Outrage in Iran over ban on female football fans

Red card! Outrage in Iran over ban on female football fans

Iran has mostly banned women from its sports stadiums since the revolution in 1979. (AFP/File)
Iran has mostly banned women from its sports stadiums since the revolution in 1979. (AFP/File)
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31 Mar 2022 09:03:02 GMT9
31 Mar 2022 09:03:02 GMT9
  • President orders inquiry after 2,000 women with tickets denied entry to stadium for World Cup qualifier
Arab News

JEDDAH: There was outrage in Iran on Wednesday after thousands of women with tickets were denied entry to a stadium hosting a football World Cup qualifying match.

President Ebrahim Raisi ordered an Interior Ministry inquiry, a regional governor apologized and the country’s attorney general said the incident was “not acceptable.”

The World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on Tuesday night, which Iran won 2-0, took place at the Imam Reza stadium in the northeastern city of Mashhad. About 2,000 women who had bought tickets for match gathered at the perimeter of the stadium but were not allowed to enter.

Mohsen Davari, the governor of Mashhad, said: “I apologise that many people couldn’t enter the stadium. Unfortunately, a large number of people outside were deprived of watching the game.”

Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said: “If conditions allowed the sale of tickets to women, a suitable place had to be found for them.” The incident was “not acceptable … and showed poor management,” he said.

Human Rights Watch urged FIFA, the highest governing body of association football, to intervene amidst allegations that “excessive force” had been used in policing the ban.

HRW’s senior Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far said: “Iranian authorities have repeatedly demonstrated they are willing to go to great lengths to enforce their discriminatory and cruel ban on women attending football stadiums.

“Given Iranian authorities’ longstanding violations, FIFA needs to follow its own global guidelines on non-discrimination and should consider enforcing penalties for Iran’s noncompliance.”

Sepehri Far questioned a claim from the Iranian Football Federation that only nine women had purchased tickets and that “fake” tickets had been distributed among fans in the lead-up to the match, namechecking FIFA President Gianni Infantino as she sought action on the matter.

Infantino “personally promised that Iranian women would be able to go to stadiums,” Sepehri Far said. “It is long overdue for FIFA to demonstrate that it is serious in enforcing transparent accountability measures to ensure women in Iran can watch games like their peers all over the world.”

Wednesday’s events are unlikely to go unnoticed by world football’s governing body, which ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women access to stadiums without restriction or face suspension from international competitions.

That directive followed an outcry over the death of Sahar Khodayari, a football fan who was detained in 2018 trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man. She later set herself on fire in fear of being jailed.

Iranian authorities responded to the FIFA imposed October 2019 deadline to permit women into games by allowing a limited number to attend a World Cup qualifier at the Azadi Stadium only to subsequently resort to various tactics to maintain their ban.

Iran has generally barred female spectators from football and other sports stadiums since the revolution in 1979. The country’s powerful clerics say women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-clothed men.

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