The Islamic state of Iran recently made the news when it revealed on an Iranian state-run news agency, ILNA that a stadium by the name of Azadi Stadium in the capital city of Tehran decided to host a small group of female audiences for the friendly match of football between Iran and Bolivia.
While in most countries of the world, football stadiums are inviting and accepting an audience featuring people of all genders, the spectacle of a female only section in the upper stands of the Azadi stadium is rare in Iran.
The News report issued by ILNA confirms that in the long passage of 35 years, this is the first time that a group of women has been allowed to watch a men’s sporting event directly from the stadium.
Iran’s Islamic revolution took over in 1979 and the Islamic rulers of the Middle Eastern country have passed a ruling barring women from watching men’s sporting events such as volleyball, basketball, and football directly from the stands.
The women who were involved in this rare spectacle included female employees of Iran’s soccer federation, members of the Iranian women’s national soccer team, female journalists and some other unnamed women who were permitted to enter the stadium at the very last minute.
Women’s rights activists have been enthusiastically speaking up for Iranian women for a while now and while you would think that this particular move would please and appease them, that is precisely what they are thinking as is clear from the words of one Brussels based women’s rights activist, Darya Safari. Darya claims to see through the “trick” of the Iranian authorities. As there were no reports of lifting the ban on women from purchasing actual tickets to the stadium Darya claims that the ban is still very much in place and there are no real signs of it lifting, insinuating that all of this is just a facade to appease the activists.
She went on to say “It is the same as what they do for [men’s] volleyball — under pressure from activists, they select some women who can enter [the stadium], but it is just to show off. As long as Iranian women cannot buy tickets and the stadium ban remains, we will keep on fighting.”
The biggest opposition to allowing women enter male sporting events comes from Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, who is an influential religious leader in Iran and claims that the attendance of women in the stadium during male sporting events is bound to lead to morally wrong behavior.
However, the men’s football team actually had certain individuals who were in favor of allowing women to attend the matches in the stadiums. “It should begin from somewhere, and this is a good start,” said Mehdi Taremi, a striker for the Iranian national football team. Photos of the Iranian women who were allowed to enter the stadium were published on the Iranian State-run news site and they were seen singing the national anthem of Iran and cheering the Iranian National Football team.