Last June, Fifa gave an ultimatum to Tehran: the Islamic Republic will grant Iranian women the right to enter the stadiums. Otherwise, the country risks being suspended or expelled from the International Football Federation, while the qualifications for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar begin in September.
At a press conference on Monday, August 19, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabei announced that Masoud Soltanifar, Minister of Sports and Youth, will take the necessary actions to allow the presence of Iranian women in the matches of the National team. The announcement supports the Iranian Football Federation's endorsement of stadium women a month earlier, according to Iran's Khabaronline .
In Iran, access to stadiums has been prohibited to women since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. However, the statutes of the International Football Federation (Fifa) condemn all discrimination. Since June 2018, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, pushes the Iranian authorities to remedy this failure. A pressure that, according to an Iranian sports journalist, could have effect: " In my opinion, the authorities will allow Iranian women access to the national team matches. At Azadi Stadium in Tehran, they have already planned a women's entrance and passage. They will look from appointed stands separated from men. [...] But this authorization will never be granted for matches of the Iranian league, which are governed by the Iranian laws , "he says on condition of anonymity. The representative of one of the most popular clubs in Iran confirms these statements: " Iranian laws impose special rules to respect and, according to them, apart from the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, no other Iranian stadium is equipped to welcome women . "
Arrests of several girls
While President Hassan Rohani has also pleaded for Iranian access to stadiums, Iran's public prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri is opposed. In October 2018, he claimed that " the presence of women at the Azadi stadium is a sin "; and last August 7, he wondered: " Why does Fifa come to take care of the presence of women in our stadiums? Are our women hurting? "
On August 13, 2019, Human Rights Watch reported that five girls, known to "illegally" enter the stadiums as masters, were arrested along with Forough Alaei, the photographer who followed them. The latter is also the winner this year of the World Press Photo for its series on these supporters like no other. On Twitter, many indignant comments called for a reaction from Fifa: " Let someone bring it back to FIFA, " wrote a surfer in Persian while many were content to tag the Federation. Four of these girls were finally released on Saturday 17 August.
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Like some of her friends arrested, Mona *, too, disguised herself as a boy twice to be able to attend a match. " It's a lot of stress, but it's still worth it ," she says. For this young supporter, " football is for everyone, it does not change anything we are a woman, a man, a girl or a boy. [...] Each of us should be able to support the team he prefers. "
On November 10, 2018, Mariam * was able to attend the final of the Asian Champions League between Persepolis (Iran) and the Kashima Antlers (Japan). That day, for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, nearly a thousand women were able to enter the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. " It's an incredible feeling. When I saw the stadium, I felt that all my hopes were there in front of me. Yet, I had already entered once disguised as a boy. But it's special to be there without fear of being recognized and there is no risk that you will be called after the match, "says the fan of Pirouzi (the other name of the team of Persepolis).
The event, relayed by all the international media, was nevertheless tainted by suspicions. According to some supporters, there was no way for women to buy tickets and only groups of pre-screened Iranian women should have entered. For Mona, "it was a trick to satisfy Fifa ". The representatives of the International Federation and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) were indeed present during the game that night. Eventually, many female supporters eventually reached the stadium after long hours of waiting, crying, and supplication. " Fifa must push for Iranian women to enter the stadiums without prior selection ," said Mariam. " That day, we reaped the fruits of our efforts. We were many, about 400 people. We stayed eight hours behind the door, the authorities did not really have a choice [...] but how often can it happen that so many women join together to get their rights? Maybe it was just that time , "says the young woman. " We hope the situation will improve. But if FIFA and the AFC stop pressuring, it will be very hard to get what you want, "concludes Mona.
* The first names have been changed.