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Iran: 3,500 women's tickets for World Cup football match is 'cynical publicity stunt'

Fans at the 2018 Russia World Cup calling for Iranian women to be let into sports stadiums in Iran © Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Only 3,500 places in 78,000-seater stadium available to women for Iran v Cambodia 

Move comes after FIFA pressure following ‘Blue Girl’ death last month

At least 40 women arrested for attempting to enter football stadiums in past two years

The Iranian authorities must lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, said Amnesty International, ahead of Iran’s World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s game marks the first time Iran will allow women into Azadi Stadium since the shocking death of the “Blue Girl” fan Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire last month after being summoned to face charges in connection with her attempt to enter the stadium. 

Under international pressure since Khodayari’s death, the authorities have allowed a quota of tickets to be sold to women for tomorrow’s game, though only four sections - totalling around 3,500 seats - of the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium have been allocated to women spectators.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“Iran’s decision to allow a token number of women into the stadium for tomorrow’s football match is a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari’s tragic death.

“Anything short of a full reversal of the ban on women accessing all football stadiums is an insult to Sahar Khodayari’s memory and an affront to the rights of all the women of Iran who have been courageously campaigning for the ban to be lifted. 

“The Iranian authorities should lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, including domestic league games, across the country. 

“The international community, including world football’s governing body FIFA, must also ensure that women are permitted to attend all matches freely and without discrimination.

“FIFA has a responsibility to respect human rights throughout its operations, and the power under its statutes to take definitive and urgent action to address a situation which it has allowed to continue for far too long.” 

At least 40 women arrested in past two years

FIFA has recently reiterated its position that women in Iran should be permitted to enter football stadiums to watch matches. Despite this and other calls, the Iranian authorities have not lifted all restrictions on women attending football matches. 

Since the beginning of 2018, at least 40 women have been arrested and some prosecuted for attempting to enter football stadiums. Amnesty is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against any woman facing prosecution for attempting to enter a football stadium or protesting against such restrictions.

Entrenched discrimination

Women in Iran face entrenched discrimination, including in relation to divorce, employment, inheritance and political office. In recent years, dozens of women peacefully protesting against the abusive, discriminatory and degrading practice of forced hijab by taking off their headscarves in public have been violently assaulted and arrested. 

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