After the news of drug use among the spectators at Azadi Stadium last week, Iranian MP Tayebeh Siavooshi is calling for the transformation of sports stadiums into family-friendly venues to prevent such offenses from occurring there.

Siavooshi told Khabar Online that this is not the time to focus on barring women from entering stadiums as spectators. She stressed that the Ministry of Sports is very much inclined toward lifting the ban on women in stadiums and those efforts are also supported by the Ministry of Interior. She questioned security efforts to stop women from entering stadiums while drugs are getting into these venues. She added it is more useful to ban smoking in sports venues because smoking contradicts the state’s promotion of healthy living through the support of sports activities.

She stressed that opening up the spectator seats to families will also prevent socially harmful activities such as drug use in these spaces. She reported that the first step in reversing the ban on women’s presence in stadiums is currently concentrated on allotting an exclusive space for women. She said making these venues into family-friendly spaces is regarded as a later development.

In recent years, Iranian women have been barred from entering sports stadiums to watch sports events. The issue has become a controversial topic and women’s rights groups have been fighting against it through different forums. Meanwhile, conservative factions of the Islamic Republic and many senior members of the clergy remain adamant that stadiums are inappropriate venues for women and Islamic values associated with them.

During the 2018 World Cup games, women managed to enter Azadi Stadium to watch two of Iran’s games on the large screen. Members of the progressive factions of the government highlighted the peaceful aspect of the event despite the presence of women. However, conservative figures such as Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani slammed the developments saying there must be no intermingling of men and women in public spaces. Iran’s Prosecutor General also expressed reservations about the presence of women in stadiums saying although there is no law against women watching sports events in stadiums, in the Iran-Spain game some women used the event as an excuse to take off their scarves and dance in public.

Compulsory hijab for women in public and inappropriateness of dancing are two other controversial issues Islamic Republic conservatives are fighting hard to enforce on Iranian public.