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Gianni Infantino “Assured” Iranian Women Could Enter Soccer Stadiums

The Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries that extensively violate women’s rights, recently took a step in an opposite direction. On Sunday, FIFA announced that the country will allow women to attend men’s soccer matches, which will commence with the World Cup qualifier next month in Tehran.

Earlier this month, a female fan Sahar Khodayari died, as she set herself on fire outside a soccer stadium in a protest after being denied access to attend a match in Tehran. Following the incident, FIFA President Gianni Infantino spoke with the Iranian officials.

The international governing body of Football has long been concerned about the stadium ban on women. Its officials, this week, have been discussing preparations for the October 10 qualifier against Cambodia, which will be Tehran’s first home game of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Speaking at a FIFA conference on women’s football in Milan on Sunday, President Gianni Infantino stated that he had been “assured” that women in Iran would be permitted to attend the qualifier match.

“We’ve been assured that as of the next international game of Iran, which is to be played on October 10, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums,” he said. “This is something that is very important, since 40 years this has not been happening with a couple of exceptions.”

Shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran imposed a ban against women going to stadiums where men play. However, women have lately been standing strong against the ban, where some also had to face the consequences. In August, four women were detained, as they disguised themselves as men for attending a football match at the Azadi stadium in Tehran. However, they were later released.

In June, FIFA sent a letter to the Iranian Football Federation and requested a timeline to allow women to be able to buy tickets for World Cup Qualifiers.

Khodayari, who died on September 9, was charged with openly committing a sinful act” by “appearing in public without a hijab”, when she attempted to enter a stadium “dressed as a man” in March, reported the human rights group Amnesty International.

She appeared in a Tehran court earlier this month, and set herself on fire in front of the court after the case was adjourned. Following her death, Gianni Infantino called the ban “unacceptable” and emphasized on how important it was to lift the ban.

At the Sunday conference, he also stressed on the need for the sport to advance. “There is women’s football in Iran. We need to have women attending the men’s game,” the 49-year-old said. “And we need to push for that, with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore.”

Although Iranian women are now allowed to enter the stadiums, it appears that the authorities were only waiting for something big to happen. However, October 10 will be a historic day for the country, where women have been suppressed on several grounds for years.

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