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The Iranian Islamic Republic has ended a discrimination long denounced by its victims. The Minister of Sports and Youth of Iran has announced Thursday the end of the ban on women to attend men's football matches. The veto will be lifted, at least for the moment, for games played by the national team. The decision comes shortly after an amateur, who was being prosecuted for sneaking into a match, died after burning herself well.
Minister Masud Soltanifar has explained the measure. "The infrastructure of all the stadiums in the country is ready for women to access," he said, according to the official IRNA agency. To this end, he added, entrances, corridors, bathrooms and stands for women have been enabled "in accordance with cultural and religious considerations, as well as security." Soltanifar has apostilled that "we hope that [...] in the future we can expand the female presence in national competitions".
Although there was no specific rule that prohibited women from accessing men's football matches and, in fact, other sports competitions had had fans in the stands, football was forbidden for them. This was because the rigorist wing of power, influential in the judiciary and security forces, had asserted its judgment. In contrast, Hasan Rohani's centrist executive had been in favor of women's attendance at men's soccer events.
In recent times there have been timid ruptures of this gender discrimination. During the World Cup in Russia last year, the Government enabled giant screens at the Azadi stadium, the largest in the country, and allowed women and men to cheer up the 'Cheetahs' together. Subsequently, a select group of girls could publicly attend a friendly, in that stadium, between Iran and Bolivia. The confrontation allowed the stands to acquire a color that Iran had not known in decades.
But the young Sahar Jodayarí and her friends, fierce fans of local teams like the Esteghal or the Persepolis, still could not fulfill their dream of cheering on the spot the league soccer players. Despite the risk, they decided to disguise themselves as men to try to circumvent security controls and access the stands. Some succeeded. Others, like Sahar, were imprisoned for it. Two weeks ago, fearing a six-month prison sentence, Sahar burned in front of the court. He died a few days later.
That event unleashed a wave of indignation in Iran, which was reflected in the grief samples expressed by anonymous citizens, who left flowers at the scene, or by the Esteghal players themselves, who posed before a match with a T-shirt in memory of the already known as 'blue girl'. Ultimately, calls to FIFA to pressure Iran, to abolish this discrimination, increased.
Previously, Tehran had been noticed by the highest international football organization, and faced a possible veto in all international competitions. FIFA had set the month of October as an ultimatum to allow women to access football stadiums, as it claimed that this discrimination violates the statutes of the entity. Now, the possibility is reinforced that the Iran - Cambodia qualifying match, on October 10, will open a new era.
Or not. Sara, an activist in favor of women's free access to stadiums, criticizes the administration "acting callously with the tragedy that occurred." "There is no difference with previous announcements. [The minister] refers [only] to the October 10 party, so it is not a great effort to allow some women to see the game, as happened last year with that of Bolivia" , he says, in words to this medium.
"The girls who tried to dress like men, were they trying to watch a match of the national team? No. They were blue or red, like the teams they followed. If FIFA calls for a change, they should request it for all stadiums or for at least the first division league, "adds Sara.
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