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Iran Approves Women’s Entry into Stadiums, Fulfilling Long-standing Demand

By Nigar Bayramli July 3, 2023

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Iranian women are watching the World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran, October 10, 2019. / Somaye Malekian / ABC news

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) has approved the entry of women into stadiums to watch matches, fulfilling a longstanding demand.

“Women coming or not coming to stadiums is no longer a matter [of debate]. They can enter stadiums that have suitable facilities, such as Gol-Gohar [in Kerman], Sepahan and Zob-e Ahan [in Isfahan Province] and Ghadir [in Ahvaz],” the President of the Iranian Football Federation, Mehdi Taaj, said on June 30, according to ISNA news agency.

Taaj also emphasized the need for Tehran’s major Azadi Stadium to be prepared to meet this requirement.

Furthermore, Taaj revealed that the SNSC has formed a committee, consisting of representatives from the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Sports and Youth, the Football Federation, and two intelligence organizations, to plan the implementation of women’s entry into stadiums.

This decision was a direct response to persistent demands from women and pressure from FIFA.

In October 2019, female fans were permitted to purchase tickets for the first time in four decades and watched Iran’s national footballers’ World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium. Over 3,000 Iranian women celebrated their long-awaited access to the national stadium from a special women-only section. The occasion also served as a tribute to Sahar Khodayari, known as the “blue girl,” who tragically set herself on fire to protest against her arrest for attempting to enter a match.

The pressure on Iran to allow unrestricted access for women to football matches had been mounting since FIFA introduced regulations prohibiting gender-based discrimination against fans. FIFA even sent a delegation to Tehran following Khodayari’s death to ensure that women were allowed to attend the game.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, women in Iran have been prohibited from attending football matches in stadiums. The government enforced the compulsory wearing of headscarves, banned women from riding bikes in public, and prevented them from attending sports events involving the opposite gender.

In 2006, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the first serious attempt to lift the restriction, but it was met with opposition from clerics. In 2019, another former president, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, criticized the ban; however, powerful Iranian hardliners, including the country’s prosecutor-general, insisted that the ban should remain in place.