25.08.2022 18:01 h

Iran women attend first championship football match in decades

Iranian women were allowed Thursday to attend a national football championship match for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, in a "historic" move, local media reported.

For more than 40 years, Tehran has generally barred women from attending soccer matches, but they were allowed into the stadium for a match between Tehran club Esteghlal and Mes Kerman.

"This is a historic event," reported Hamshahri, the daily newspaper of Tehran's municipality.

"For the first time, female Esteghlal supporters come to (Tehran's) Azadi Stadium to support their team against Mes Kerman".

In January, women were allowed to attend an international for the first time in almost three years, for a World Cup qualifier against Iraq.

Pressure on Iran to act had increased since the death in 2019 of female fan Sahar Khodayari -- known as the "blue girl" after the colours of her favourite side Esteghlal.

Khodayari set herself on fire in fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match disguised as a male.

Her death sparked an outcry online, with many calling on world football's governing body FIFA to ban Iran from international competitions and for fans to boycott matches.

In April, the decision by officials to deny women entry to a stadium in eastern Iran for a national team match sparked outrage.

Authorities dispersed the protesting women by firing tear gas canisters, according to footage released by local media.

Earlier this month, Iran's Sports Minister Hamid Sajadi said FIFA had sent a "new letter" to Tehran proposing women's participation, as the ban on women breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

"We have no problem with the presence of women in stadiums," Sajadi told reporters at the time.

Iran's clerics, who play a major role in decision-making in the Islamic republic, argue that women should be protected from the masculine atmosphere of football matches and the sight of semi-clad men in sportswear.