Iranian women take to World Cup stage to protest stadium their ban at home

By Samindra Kunti in St Petersburg

June 17 – Iranian women, who have been banned from attending football in the Islamic state since 1980, have protested at Iran’s World Cup opening game against Morocco, seizing the exposure the world’s biggest sporting event, the World Cup, offers. 

On Friday the Iranian diaspora from around the world flocked to St Petersburg for Iran’s curtain raiser in Russia against Herve Renard’s Morocco. They exploded with joy as Iran won the game late on in dramatic fashion 1-0 to register just their second World Cup win in history, the first one a historic 2-1 win against the United States of America 2-1.

A lot of female fans were among Iran’s vociferous backing and they staged demonstrations in and outside the stadium, holding posters protesting their ban from football stadiums in Iran. Last year Iranian authorities overturned a ban on women attending volleyball games. The change in policy came about after British Iranian student Ghoncheh Ghavami spent more than three months in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, because she tried to get into a volleyball match.

The ban has often been defied by female football fans donning beards and wigs to sneak into stadiums in Iran. Authorities have arrested and detained women they find at the matches. In March, 35 women were detained for trying to attend the Tehran derby. At the time Gianni Infantino was in Iran to celebrate the local FA’s centenary. The FIFA president raised the issue with Iranian authorities. He was reassured by President Hassan Rouhani that Iran would soon allow women to watch football matches.

Mayram from Tehran had flown into St Petersburg for her first ever live game of Team Melli. She said: “It is not good that women are banned from the game, but let us hope it will get back in the future.”

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