For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were permitted to enter Iran’s Azadi Stadium on Wednesday to watch a broadcast of the country’s second World Cup match (against Spain), following the regime’s decision to relax a ban on females at sporting events.
Iran’s state-run Press TV and the country’s soccer team tweeted images of the historic event.
— Press TV (@PressTV) June 21, 2018
ورزشگاه آزادی، هماکنون! pic.twitter.com/02j1CiBPVq
— Team Melli IRAN (@TeamMelliIran) June 20, 2018
The Telegraph noted that regime loyalists who have long rejected the possibility of mixed gender audiences have supported the ban based on their belief that women should not be exposed to the swearing of football fans and because police do not have enough female officers to provide security.
According to the publication, Spain’s captain, Sergio Ramos, saluted the Iranian women after Spain beat Iran saying, “They are the ones who won tonight. Hopefully the first of many.”
Previously, women have been arrested for sneaking into the Azadi stadium. Ironically, Azadi means Freedom in Persian. Last month, female Iranian football fans disguised themselves as men by wearing fake beards, mustaches, and wigs, and snuck into a major soccer match in Iran. Pictures of the women wearing their disguises as well as videos were released after the event as participants sought to show the world their eagerness to defy Iran’s rulers and their religious rulings on female chastity and piety.
Last week, fans of Iran at the World Cup in Russia held up a banner, during Iran’s successful match against Morocco, protesting the Islamic Republic’s ban on women attending soccer matches in their country.
The banners reportedly read, “#NoBan4Women” and “Support Iranian Women to Attend Stadiums.”
In 2016, several Iranian women decided to unofficially participate in the “I Run Iran” marathon; These women ran from sidelines in the first-of-its-kind race despite being banned from running in the race itself due to their gender.
During the World Cup in Russia, Iranian women rejoiced at the ability to experience the freedom to attend the historic matches without facing fear or the actuality of being punished or experiencing jail time as they would have, prior to Wednesday, for doing the same thing in Iran’s Islamic Republic.
“I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” a 20-something Iranian woman named Paria told the Telegraph. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.”
Despite these apparent advances, it remains to be seen whether Iran’s relaxed approach to mixed sporting events in its country is a temporary or permanent change.