Women invited to watch football in Iranian stadiums for first time in 37 years

Women invited to watch football in Iranian stadiums for first time in 37 years

In 2006 the Iranian director Jafar Panahi released the film Offside.

The film followed a group of female football fans who were attempting to sneak into the national stadium in Tehran to watch a football match, something that they were prevented from doing by law.

Although that was a work of fiction the laws it featured were real. 12 years later it would appear that the basic right of being allowed to watch a football match in a stadium is now a reality for Iranian women.

As their national team fought valiantly against Spain in their group stage match at the World Cup in Russia, Iranian women were invited into two stadiums in the country to watch a broadcast of the match.

Despite the Iran team losing 1-0 this will be seen as a huge victory for the women of Iran, who have been denied entry into the stadium for the last 37 years.

Previously, women could have faced arrest, fine and imprisonment if they were found to be watching a live men's sporting event in person. This ban did not apply to foreign women.

According to SBS News, the Tehran provincial council called a one-off ruling which granted women the right to watch the match at both the Azadi and Takhti stadiums, in Tehran and Mashhad respectively.

Inside the stadiums, images and footage show women celebrating their freedom with selfies, flags and vuvuzelas.

Tayebeh Siavoshi, a female politician and women's rights activist in Iran also shared a picture of herself in the stadium, expressing her joy and wishing the team all the best in their match against Spain.

Elsewhere, the Spain captain, Sergio Ramos tweeted his support for Iranian women, claiming that they were the true winners of the evening.

In the build-up to Iran's first match at the World Cup against Morocco, Fifa President Gianni Infantino had stated that he had received word from Iran's President Hassan Rouhani that the ban would be eventually lifted.

At one point there were fears that the screening would be cancelled but as Human Rights Watch researcher Tara Sepehri Far tweeted it was just rumours and hearsay.

The event was not without incident. There were reports of an hour-long standoff between police and supporters before the game who eventually backed down and allowed men, women and children to enter the stadium.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been banned from attending public sporting events in Iran, something which extended to screenings in public spaces, cafes and restaurants.

This was done in order to protect women from a 'masculine' atmosphere.

This ban has not been ignored by female football fans in the country. Only a few months ago five women managed to sneak into the Azadi Stadium dressed as men to watch Persepolis receive their Persian Gulf Pro League championship.

Whether this ban has been permanently lifted or not remains to be seen but this will be seen as a significant moment and step-forward for the women of Iran.


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