On March 12 this year, Sahar Khodayari, whose skin will later burn 90 percent, all in blue, the color of her favorite club Esteghlal Tehran. She puts a blue wig on her head. Esteghlal plays in the Asian Champions League in the evening against al-Ain from the United Arab Emirates.
Khodayari has disguised himself as a man because women in Iran can only do so in football stadiums. She is arrested at the entrance to the Azadi Stadium, the Freedom Stadium. Khodayari, then 29, is being charged with public order and police abuse, taken to the infamous Gharchak Women's Prison, and later released on bail. On the second of September, a first trial is canceled, but Khodayari learns that she faces a six-month prison sentence. Then she lights herself before the court itself. Last Monday she died because of her severe burns.
Iran has often protested against the stadium ban on women, for example before the World Cup last year. But never before has the protest generated so much attention worldwide, and countless footballers and activists have been in solidarity with Khodayari.
Some simply sent their condolences to members of the "blue girl" (#BlueGirl), as Khodayari is often referred to as the blue disguise. For example, the French world champion Paul Pogba.
Strenght and prayers to family and friends of #bluegirl #SaharKhodayari- Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) September 10, 2019
But many others are not enough, Twitter is currently doing the hashtag "BanIRSportsFederations" the round. This is aimed primarily at the World Federation Fifa, which is to finally exclude Iran from all international games, as long as he does not let women into the stadium. Because the ban violates the Fifa statutes, according to which discrimination against women is "strictly prohibited".
However, Fifa wrote on the following day on Khodayari's death:
We learned from Iran and deeply regret this tragedy. FIFA conveys its condolences to the family and friends of Sahar. We reiterate our calls on Iranian authorities to ensure freedom and safety of any women engaged in legitimate fight to end stadium ban. pic.twitter.com/h0svqFq8uX- FIFA Media (@fifamedia) 10th September 2019
Deeply regret this tragedy and repeat the "call on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and security of all women engaged in a legitimate struggle against the stadium ban". However, Iranian-American journalist and activist Masih Alinejad responded in an interview with the BBC: "We do not need the empty words of FIFA, we want Fifa to exclude Iran from international matches." A demand that is now louder, even among Iranians.
Of course, the question of why a nation may participate in Fifa tournaments while violating the values formulated by FIFA is justified. To protect them from too much masculinity, as Shiite clerics say, Iranian women have been forbidden to watch men's football matches since 1981. In no other country is there such a ban at the moment. Even Saudi Arabia, the religiously religious kingdom, first let women into the stadium at the beginning of the year.
There is resistance in Iran, which Fifa could strengthen
Fifa, which often and often emphasizes the world-improving power of football, has been silent for quite some time. Last year, President Gianni Infantino visited a match between Esteghlal and Persepolis in Tehran. Several women were arrested again, but Infantino said nothing. In June, the World Federation gave Iran an ultimatum, but this was extended several times. For the World Cup qualifier against Cambodia on the tenth of October now a few women are allowed into the stadium, from all other games they probably remain excluded.
After all, there is now massive resistance in Iran against the exclusion of women, even Iran's President Hassan Ruhani has spoken out against the stadium ban. Fifa could strengthen this resistance by excluding Iran from the current World Cup qualifiers and other competitions. So far, she does not, for example, Iranian footballers support women like Khodayari. Masoud Shojaei, Iran's national team captain, wrote on Instagram: "The self-immolation of a woman accused of watching a football game - the result of hideous and disgusting thinking - will be completely incomprehensible to future generations."