Last month, a group of Iranian women lined up outside of Azadi Stadium to watch a highly anticipated football match between Iran and Syria. When they tried to enter the stadium, they were instantly attacked by security guards.
According to some of the women attacked, the guards severely beat them and confiscated their personal belongings. The violence was unprovoked, as the women had been peacefully waiting on a lawn outside of the stadium. Despite having tickets, all Iranian women were denied entrance into the game.
Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iranian women have been banned from entering stadium football matches. The Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) claims that the ban is to “protect women and Islamic norms.” Women are prohibited from watching men play because of revealing uniforms and the threat to chastity. Iran’s religious leaders and the football federation believe that women watching sports is a violation of Muslim law.
Not only are women physically assaulted for attending football matches, they are also liable to arrest.
Football is Iran’s most popular sport.The country is full of fans, and the women are just as passionate as the men. Women often resort to disguising themselves with facial hair and men’s clothes in order to enter the stadium gates. Hundreds of them are a part of OpenStadiums: a movement of Iranian women who want to end discrimination and open stadiums for everyone.
2018 saw some progression for Iranian football fans. During the World Cup, women were allowed to enter the Azadi Stadium for live screenings of Iran’s final match with Spain. In October, a group of authorized women were permitted to attend a friendly match with Bolivia. The following month, roughly 500 women attended the Asia Champions League final in Tehran.
Although these were positive movements in the right direction, recent incidents show that Iranian authorities are still strictly enforcing the ban 40 years after its establishment.
FIFA has condemned Iran for their stadium bans. The association’s human rights panel has urged the country to make a change and start allowing women to attend all matches. The ban blatantly violates FIFA’s code of ethics, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.”