Iranian Government Supports Women’s Presence in Sports Stadiums, Spokesman Says

Iranian women attend Asian Men's Volleyball Championship between Iran and Qatar in Azadi stadium in Tehran, Iran September 14, 2019. REUTERS./

By Mohammad Reza Hamidi

President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet supports women’s rights to attend football matches at sports stadiums, according to the Spokesman for the Iranian government Ali Rabiei has said that.

Speaking to reporters after a September 11 cabinet meeting in Tehran, Mr. Rabiei said that the Minister of Sports and Youth Masoud Soltanifar had completed preliminary work on allocating a section of every stadium in the country to female spectators, where they can sit and watch football matches.

“Women are justified in demanding their social rights,” Rabiei told reporters. “They are responsible for 30 percent of the work done in several ministries. They also hold 66 percent of all the jobs in the country.”

Rabiei also spoke about the tragic death of Sahar Khodayari, nicknamed the “Blue Girl” – a reference to the colors of her favorite football team Esteqlal Tehran – who set herself on fire after her trial for attempting to enter a football stadium disguised as a man. He said the government would “produce a report and investigate various aspects of the incident.”

“Last Sunday [September 8], the cabinet discussed the passing of Ms. Sahar Khodayari, and the presence of women in sports stadiums,” Rabiei said. “The government supports women’s rights to attend football matches. According to the sports minister, all stadiums now include designated sections, facilities, and services for female fans, making it possible for them to watch premier league and national team football games.”

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“Women could already attend the Iranian National Football team’s matches. Things are moving in the right direction, and soon they will also be able to watch premier leagues games,” Rabiei added. “I urge male football fans to behave appropriately at sporting events to eliminate many of the current concerns. We take these issues seriously.”

“We have no objection to women attending football matches at large sports stadiums if the conditions are right,” Mehr News Agency quoted Mahmoud Vaezi, the chief of staff of President Rouhani, as saying on September 1. “However, rival fans routinely exchange insults and fight during matches. So, we do not think it is appropriate for women to be in the stadium under such circumstances.”

The following day, Mr. Vaezi clarified his earlier comments in an Instagram post in which he said: “Yesterday I expressed my support for women attending events in sports stadiums. Although I advised against the presence of women at football matches because of frequent physical altercations among male fans, I also pointed out that the Ministry of Sports and Youth had been doing its utmost to improve the conditions. I said the government had asked the minister to make those changes that would allow women to watch football games at stadiums.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]