During this year’s World Cup, the Iranian soccer team played and beat Morocco, scoring the first Iranian victory in almost 10 years. But it wasn’t the only victory won that day.
Because of this win, women were allowed to enter Tehran’s largest stadium for the first time in 37 years to watch a screening of the following match between Spain and Iran on June 20th.
On June 25th, women were allowed to enter a second time to watch Iran play Portugal. Despite some criticizing the choice to let women enter, countless female attendees were overjoyed to watch their team play.
British-Iranian student and activist Ghoncheh Ghavami, who has become a leader in fighting to lift the viewership ban after being detained for trying to attend a men’s volleyball game, was in attendance of the historic event.
“It was incredible, the first time we saw the stadium there was 100,000 people present,” Ghavami said in an email to NBC News about the Iran-Spain game. “The space was great. Even after the end of the game, people continued to stay in the stadium.”
A group of Iranian women known as Open Stadiums has been protesting for access to the stadium during the World Cup. The group posted a picture on Twitter of the women in attendance following the June 20th game.
— OpenStadiums (@openStadiums) June 20, 2018
Open Stadiums has been a loud supporter of the lifting the ban, calling themselves “a movement of Iranian Women seeking to end discrimination & let women attend stadiums.”
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, women have been banned from attending men’s sports events because, as Iranian clerics say, “women must be kept from entering sports arenas because they need protection from the masculine environment at those venues.”
While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized these policies, this is the first real step that has been taken in regards to giving women access to sports events. But unfortunately, not all Iranian political leaders think that the ban should be removed. Iran’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said he was “ashamed” of the recent experience opening the stadium up to women.
He went on to say that the women removing their headscarves and singing and dancing in the stadium was an act of “disrespect to our martyrs and betrayal of the revolution.”
Iran is currently the only country participating in the 2018 World Cup Games that prohibits women from entering stadiums, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
Despite those who support the ban, many hope that letting women enter the stadium – though it was made clear that the lift on the ban did not remove the policies completely – is a step toward a permanent change.
“It’s a positive development that women were finally let into Tehran’s Azadi stadium today after protests by women and men outside the arena, but it remains to be seen whether the discriminatory ban has been permanently lifted. Iranian women have been risking arrest by peacefully protesting this ban for years and have shown they won’t back down until they are treated as equals,” said executive director of The Center for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi.
The hopeful supporters of allowing women to enter stadiums view this recent development, and its media coverage, as a huge step toward developing more equal policies across the board.
“These doors finally opened. The image of women’s happiness and encouragement has been widely disseminated, and has been broken down into cyberspace,” Ghavami said. “It’s hard to close the doors of the stadium on women now.”
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