Women allowed to watch Iran-Iraq match at Tehran stadium

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Tehran (AFP) – Iranian women were allowed Thursday for the first time in three years to attend a soccer match of their country’s national team at a stadium in Tehran.

“I’m very happy. It’s the first time I’ve attended a game at the Azadi stadium,” said a 26-year-old civil engineer who went only by the name of Mahya. She carried the national flag and covered her head with a gray scarf.

Ten thousand tickets, including two thousand reserved for women, were available for the 2022 World Cup qualifier between Iran and Iraq, the ISNA news agency reported.

The last time Iranian women were allowed to attend a football match of their national team, after decades of stadium bans, was in October 2019. Since then, national team matches have held without spectators due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“I bought the tickets online and got a text message confirming it,” Mahya said, adding that “if we win, we will go to the streets to celebrate the victory.”

She added that “there is nothing strange or complicated” about a woman going to the stadium.

“It should have happened earlier but I’m very happy and hope it continues,” she said.

The women were separated from the men in the stands and watched by policewomen.

“I wanted to have my husband by my side but they said men and women were separated,” said another fan, Golnaz Bahari, 24.

“It will be much better if families can get together,” Bahari said, carrying her child and a vuvuzela horn.

The Islamic republic generally banned female spectators in football and other stadiums from playing for about 40 years. The clerics, who play a major role in decision-making, argue that women should be protected from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-dressed men.

World football’s governing body FIFA ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women’s access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by ticket demand.

A month later, they were able to watch the 2022 World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium.

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