Iran Banishes Women From Tehran Football Match Attended by FIFA Chief

Posted March 04, 2018

The president of FIFA on Thursday called for easing of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and not to let it affect any football events.

Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino says Iranian President Hassan Rohani has assured him that women will soon be allowed to attend soccer matches in the country, although it could "take a bit of time".

Stressing that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always tried to provide more and more access to sport, he said, "Public and professional sport activities are increasing in our country today, and national teams of Iran take part in various fields of sport at global levels, including the presence of Iranian national football teams at all levels in regional and global competitions".

The FIFA president then went to watch a derby match between Tehran rivals Persepolis and Esteghlal.

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Article 4 of FIFA's statutes reads: "Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion".

OpenStadiums - a movement of Iranian women - has written an open letter to Infantino calling on him to use his power and influence to end the ban.

Iranian women are now banned from attending games across the Middle East country. "Hence, my appeal to the Iranian authorities; open the nation's football stadiums to women".

In an interview with VOA Persian Thursday, Brussels-based Iranian activist Darya Safai said Iranian women have been trying to get into football stadiums for years, sometimes disguising themselves with facial hair to look like men.

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Iran's state-run IRNA news agency cited the interior ministry as saying about 35 women were stopped from entering the Azadi Stadium on Thursday for a game between Esteqlal and Persepolis and "were instructed to a proper place by police".

"I wish women would gather outside the stadium to ask men not to enter without them".

"We will focus our efforts on entertaining the football masses, whether they were in Iran, Saudi Arabia or wherever in the world", he added.

Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Iranian religious leader, has been one of the strongest supporters of banning women from sporting venues.

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One female caller said she sees irony in Azadi Stadium's name, whose English translation is "freedom".