For the first time in decades Iranian women have attended a World Cup qualifier in Tehran after they were allowed to enter a stadium to watch a men’s match
Since just after the 1979 Islamic revolution women were banned from stadiums when men were playing.
The change, though, followed the death of a female fan who set herself alight after being arrested for trying to attend a match.
Sahar Khodayari, known as ‘Blue Girl’ because of the team she supported, set fire to herself outside court while awaiting trial for trying to attend a match disguised as a man. The 29-year-old died a week later.
However, human rights organisation, Amnesty International, described the move as a “cynical publicity stunt” and that there were only a “token number” of tickets for female fans as it called for all restrictions on female attendance to be lifted.
More than 3,500 women bought tickets to the World Cup qualifier against Cambodia – in a 78,000 capacity Azadi Stadium – where they were granted access to a special women’s-only section.
Women were previously allowed into the Azadi Stadium to watch a screening of their team playing Spain in the 2018 World Cup. But this was the first time in decades that they had been allowed to watch a game on Tehran’s pitch.
The tickets for women reportedly sold out within minutes.
After the game, one female fan posted on twitter: “We had fun for three hours. All of us laughed, some of us cried because we were so happy.
“We had this experience very late in our life but I am so happy for younger girls who came to the stadium today.”
FIFA, football’s governing body, put pressure on Tehran to meet its commitments to allowing women to attend World Cup qualifiers.
It said that it would “stand firm” in ensuring that women had access to all football matches in Iran.
Joyce Cook, FIFA’s head of Education and Social Responsibility, said: “We are firm and committed that all fans have an equal right, including women, to attend matches.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia allowed women to attend a football match for the first time as part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation by the ultra-conservative Muslim country.
Iran beat Cambodia 14-0.