FIFA has responded to calls asking the world football governing body to look into the Iranian women’s fight to gain access to stadiums after the tragic death of an Iranian female football fan – Sahar Khodayari.
Iranians have been writing to FIFA following the death of Sahar Khodayari – known in the social media as the Blue Girl – who set herself on fire after she was arrested and charged trying to access a soccer stadium to watch her favorite team.
A group of 93 academics, women’s rights activists and public figures are among those who have started a petition addressed to FIFA’s president, Gianni Vicenzo Infantino stating that “it is FIFA’s responsibility to seriously demand that the Islamic Republic stop this blatant discriminatory policy against women.”
FIFA has responded and its Sustainability & Diversity Department have put out a statement saying:
“We can also assure you that we are working intensely towards ensuring that women will soon be able to freely attend football matches in Iran. As was reported in international media, we are closely engaging with the Iranian Football Federation on that matter.”
FIFA has also announced that a delegation of its experts will soon travel to Tehran to inspect steps taken ahead of the first home match of the qualifiers to the FIFA World Cup 2022, which is due to takes place on 10 October.
Sahar Khodayari, a 29-year-old soccer fan from the city of Qum attempted to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium dressed as a male fan when she was arrested, sent to jail and charged in March 2018. When summoned to court in September 2019, she set herself on fire outside a courthouse in Tehran and later on died in the hospital. She had learned at the courthouse that she could be facing six months in prison for “openly committing a sinful act” – a charge that the Islamic Republic is slapping many women who appear without the Islamic hijab in public.
According to her sister, Khodayari was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her family had informed the Iranian Judiciary of her condition but she was sent to jail regardless of this. She was traumatized as a consequence of the jail experience and when she learned that she could facing even more jail time, she set herself on fire.
Khodayari died in Tehran’s Motahhari Hospital.
After the 1979 revolution in Iran and coming to power of Islamists, wearing of Islamic veil became compulsory and women were banned from attending all-male sports games. This meant that female fans could not attend any sports including the very popular soccer games in Iran.
Iranian women have been fighting the ban ever since with the movement to gain access to stadiums gaining momentum in the past two decades. Iran, however, has been suppressing this movement arresting, beating, and jailing female sports fans who try to gain access to games.
One letter to FIFA in support of this movement reminds the world soccer authority that according to Article 4 of the FIFA Statutes, discrimination of any kind against a group of people is not allowed on account of gender. They also remind FIFA that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only country in the world, and the only FIFA member that based on its obscurantist policies does not allow women in the male-sporting events.”
Sign a petition that asks FIFA to condition Iran’s participation in international football tournaments, on its lifting of the ban on women’s entry into football stadiums: