Iranian state media has revealed that women in the country officially attended a domestic football league match for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The women attended the match between home side Estaqlal and rivals Mes-e-Kerman at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, on Thursday. The women were seated separately from men and many of them waved flags, wore jerseys and chanted ‘Blue Girl, in acknowledgement of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire while awaiting trial for trying to attend a match disguised as a man. Khodayari is called “Blue Girl” due to the team she supported and she is also a symbol for the struggle for women’s rights in the country.
The government allowed women to go for the match after FIFA sent a letter to the Iranian authorities to permit more women into stadiums as prohibiting them is against international football statutes. In 2019, Iranian women were allowed to watch the AFC Champions League final between Persepolis and Japan’s Kawashima Antlers in Tehran. In January 2022, they were also allowed to watch Iran’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Iraq at the Azadi Stadium.
But the women fans were allowed in March this year, to attend Iran’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon at the Imam Reza Stadium in Mashhad. During that time, ISNA news agency said, “About 2,000 Iranian women, who had bought tickets for the Iran-Lebanon match, were present in the perimeter of Imam Reza stadium, but could not enter the stadium.”
Iran captain Alireza Jahanbaksh also criticized it and said, “I don’t think anything would have happened if women had come to the stadium, and this could promote our culture”.