In early September, an Iranian female football fan named Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire to protest the gender apartheid of Iranian regime. She later died of her injuries in hospital. She had previously been arrested for entering a football stadium disguised as a man, and was expected to be sentenced to at least six months in prison. Her favorite team color was blue and hence she was referred to as “blue girl” in a worldwide hashtag campaign on social media. Iran is the only country in the world that does not allow women to enter football stadiums to watch male football. Many women have previously tried to enter stadiums disguised as men and have been arrested and beaten by the police.
After her cause received worldwide attention and FIFA put pressure to end the ban on Iranian women entering the football stadiums, Iranian authorities have relented and allowed women to enter the stadiums for the first time after 4 decades of discriminating women for an upcoming football match.
But the world must know that the ban on women entering the stadiums has not been completely lifted and this chapter is not over yet. The Iranian authorities are only promising to allow women to enter the stadium because there is an international match coming up this Thursday between Iran and Cambodia. Since this is an international game, FIFA can put pressure on the regime to lift the ban temporarily.
The main problem is Iranian women entering the stadiums in general and at all times, especially in domestic games. The so called “blue girl” was a fan of the team Esteghlal, one of the most popular domestic football teams in Iran.
A girl whose identity is disguised (for fear of the regime’s retaliation) sent a mobile clip to the famous Iranian women rights activist Masih Alinejad’s page last Sunday showing that only limited seats were given to women for this game by the regime. She who describes herself as an ordinary Iranian girl says that the tickets were bought by an unknown organization before they even became available for women. She also claims that the policy of allowing limited seats for women is only demonstrative, designed to deceit FIFA.
On Wednesday the picture of workers working on fencing and segregating an area of the Azadi stadium emerged on social media. This is the section that women are supposed to sit in. Last week came the news of female officers who will be engaged in controlling women in the stadium. The Azadi stadium in Teheran has 100,000 seats whereas the seats determined for women number only 4,600 according to the Independent.
Providing a caged section for limited number of women is not progress.
FIFA and the world must not fall for the propaganda of the regime. The regime temporarily lifted the ban last year to allow women to watch the World Cup being streamed at a stadium in Tehran. That did not change the regime’s policy on their gender apartheid.