Sports

A cunning plan to break the ban on women at Iranian soccer matches

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Women are banned from attending soccer matches in Iran. In this photo from 2011, thousands of women can be seen not attending a match in Tehran's famous Azadi stadium. 

Credit:

Morteza Nikoubazl

In Iran, soccer stadiums are a male-only affair: Women are banned from attending games. Not all female sports fans are so easily dissuaded, however. On Sunday, eight women found their own way to try to watch a match at Tehran's Azadi Stadium. 

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All eight are reported to have dressed as men, with closely cropped hair and caps to hide their faces. Not well enough, apparently — according to the Tasnim News Agency, security guards spotted them as they entered and blocked them from the stadium. 

Soccer is hugely popular in Iran across sexes, but it is considered inappropriate for women to view games in person. According to Rana Rahimpour of the BBC's Persian Service, attendance has been barred to women since the Islamic Revolution. "Some authorities [have said that] men tend [to] behave badly, they get into fights, they swear a lot — and some clerics say there is a possibility for boys and girls to mingle [and] exchange phone numbers."

This is not the first time that women have smuggled themselves into Iranian soccer stadiums. Several women have filmed themselves attending matches in disguise, and videos of them doing so have gone viral. 

Female spectators are also banned from other sports. In 2015, Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian citizen, was sentenced to a year in jail after she attempted to watch a men's volleyball match. She had attended the match carrying a banner protesting the rules. She was eventually released before the end of her sentence after Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience.