Iranian women to see football freely for first time in decades

Iranian women to see football freely for first time in decades

Iranian women to see football freely for first time in decades

The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from soccer and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

But under pressure from Federation Internationale de Football Association, soccer's governing body, Iranian authorities are allowing a few thousand women to watch a game Thursday at Tehran's Azadi Stadium - in a section separate from men.

Thousands of Iranian women fans are to attend a soccer match freely Thursday for the first time in decades, after Federation Internationale de Football Association threatened to suspend the country over its controversial male-only policy.

Thousands of women have now bought tickets to watch the 2022 World Cup Qualifier against Cambodia.

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"I still can't believe it's happening because after all these years watching every match on TV, I'm going to be able to experience everything in person", she said.

Iranian sports journalist Raha Pourbakhsh shows purchased electronic tickets for the Iran-Cambodia World Cup 2022 match in front of Azadi stadium in the capital Tehran. She told news service AFP that she last stepped into Azadi stadium about 25 years ago with her father. "It's a good moment for women to be more involved in the game". It's not clear how many tickets have been made available to men.

"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 meant to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari's tragic death", Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, said in a statement.

Ahead of Qatar 2022, Iran has come under pressure from Federation Internationale de Football Association to allow women to attend this round of World Cup qualifiers. The organization said the ban breaches worldwide soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination. The September 19 statement indicated that the governing football body expected "positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October".

"It's not just about one match", FIFA's head of social responsibility and education Joyce Cook told the BBC. We're totally focused on making sure women can attend this match on 10 October and working just as pragmatically to ensure women also can attend local matches in league football - but it's about what follows as well.

The bumpy road Iranian women have travelled in order to gain free access to stadiums has not been without tragedy.

An activist inside Iran told "60 Minutes" that women attending tomorrow's game is a "test step" in the "right direction".

"T$3 hey just want to break this discrimination", she said.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have only had rare access to stadiums in Iran.

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