Under pressure from world soccer federation, FIFA,500 female fans were allowed into Tehran's Azadi Stadiumto watch a local league football match.
Tickets were sold only to 500 female fans and a special forces unit consisting of female anti- riot police was present to lead them to their secluded section of the 100,000-seat stadium. many say the ban on women’s presence at soccer matches was only lifted under pressure from the international governing body of association football (FIFA).
The world’s soccer authority had tried to convince Iran’s government to lift an unwritten ban on women attending stadiums to watch male players for nearly a decade.
The ban has led to many arrests, beatings, detentions, and abuses against women.
Iranian officials have always argued that male football fans swear profanities, so the atmosphere of stadiums is not suitable for women even if they are seated in a different part of the stadium.
“I wish you had voluntarily opened stadium gates to Iranian women and FIFA’s pressure wasn't behind the realization of [female fans’] right [to watch games in stadiums],” Azar Mansouri, the first female party leader in Iran wrote in a commentary in reformist Etemad newspaper Sunday.
“Opposingthe demands of half of the country’s population for going to stadiums, cycling in public, and the right to choose how to dress, means the demand to end discrimination. Why should a plea such as going to stadiums be opposed in the name of religion in a society which is susceptible to tension and every kind of protest and violence, so that people say FIFA’s pressure saved Iranian woman,” Mansouri who was elected secretary-general of the Etehad-e Mellat (Nation’s Unity) Party in December wrote.
Ensieh Khazali, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, however, claimed on Sunday that the decision to allow women’s presence at the game was made by the ministry of sports and pressure from FIFA had no role in it.
Many Iranians had urged FIFA to ban their country from the World Cup after hundreds of female fans were once again denied entry into a soccer stadium on March 1 in Mashhad in northeastern Iran to watch a World Cup qualifier between Iran and Lebanon, despite FIFA’s pressure to lift the ban on women entering stadiums. The fans, with tickets in their hands, were stopped from entering and were pepper-sprayed when they demanded to be allowed in.
Authorities tried to use the unprecedented presence of women at Azadi Stadium on Friday for regime propaganda but videos circulating on social media show enraged fans booing, during a religious and ideological propaganda song performed by a choir during halftime and drowning the choir’s voice.
The song, ‘Hello Commander’, is heavily promoted by the Islamic Republic, especially among children, and was first performed to a full stadium of mobilized regime supporters and school children on May 27.
‘Hello Commander’ is a song dedicated to Mahdi, the 12th Imam of Shiites who has been in occultation since the 9th century according to Shiite believers. The song and its promotion are unusual as the music is in the often frowned upon pop genre which has no place on Iran’s state media.
‘Hello Commander’ also mentions Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who is believed by his devotees to be the Imam’s representative on earth and has to be obeyed as the Imam would be if he were present among believers.