World Cup qualifier 'humiliation' for Iranian women banned from stadium

World Cup qualifier 'humiliation' for Iranian women banned from stadium
The website of Iran's main stadium was hacked in protest over the ban on women watching men play football, after the World Cup qualifier in Tehran reignited calls for equality.
3 min read
07 Sep, 2017
Iranian women are campaigning to be allowed to enter stadiums [Getty]
The inevitable geopolitical undertones of the Syria-Iran World Cup qualifier on Tuesday made the match notable for more than just the last-minute equaliser by the visiting team.

But another fight made it into the stadium spotlight that evening - Iranian women's demand to be allowed to watch sports.

Since 1979's Islamic Revolution, men and women have not been allowed to take part in sports together or attend most games involving the opposite gender.

A campaign to allow women to enter the stadiums in the Islamic republic has been gathering pace, and Tuesday's game brought the issue to the forefront again.

On Saturday, female fans were briefly elated to find tickets on sale for the match only for Iran's football federation to report a "technical error" and refund tickets bought by women.

On the night of the match, at least two female lawmakers were present after the Ministry of Sport had granted special permission for female members of parliament to attend.

Some women MPs rejected the offer in solidarity with Iranian women.

"At a time when girls of this country have no choice but to dress as men to get into the stadium, I as a representative of these people would not like to be present in the stadium by receiving a special permit," Parvaneh Salahshouri, another member of parliament, told the reformist Shargh newspaper.

"I go in when they too can come in," she said.

But adding insult to injury, Iranian authorities allowed female foreigners to attend the match, including Syrian supporters.

That prompted a rare comment by one of the announcers on state television, saying it was "a shame" that Iranian women were barred.
"It was a humiliation for Iranian women. It was such a frustration for women once again being pushed back home and told 'you cannot come inside'.
Activist Darya Safai who protested at the Rio Olympics last year against Iran's stadium restrictions told The New Arab: "It was a humiliation for Iranian women. It was such a frustration for women once again being pushed back home and told 'you cannot come inside'.
"Iran, the Islamic republic, has shown the beautiful game is political. They do it in a proud and shameless way."

She said allowing Syrian women into the stadium, some of whom were not wearing headscarves, compulsory in Iran, was "hard to digest".

Iran allowed foreign female football supporters into the stadium, but not Iranian women [Getty]

Iran's football captain Masud Shojaei, who lent his support to the women's campaign, was banned from taking part on Tuesday after his Greek side played against an Israeli team. 

Safai said this added further frustration.

"Unfortunately this is how they treat the captain. He is the one who always stood up for the Iranian women, asking for their presence in the stadium. We wanted him to play, he was a big hope for the Iranians," she said.

As Iran hopes to qualify for next year's World Cup in Russia, Safai has called on FIFA to take a harsher stance on the ban, and urged Iran to re-think its image on the world stage.

"If they want to be in the world, they should respect the laws of the world," she said. "FIFA should tell Iran, if you want to be part of our federation, you have to respect the statutes and let women inside the stadiums, (otherwise) we cannot keep the games inside Iran. There should be no kind of discrimination inside the stadium."

On Wednesday, the website of Iran's main stadium was hacked with a banner placed across the front page for several hours saying: "Let Iranian women enter their stadiums".

They think it's all over? Not yet.

Agencies contributed to this report.