Hossein Ashtari, the head of Iran’s police force, says it is the force’s duty to cancel concerts and prevent women from entering stadiums.

Hossein Ashtari

Hossein Ashtari

“These days we are being criticized for preventing women from entering sports stadiums or canceling concerts, while many of these actions are carried out under legal warrants and we are merely acting within the limits of the law,” Ashtari said in a meeting with Ayatollah Makarrem Shirazi, a senior member of the clergy.

The police chief said these actions are the “fundamental and legal duty of the police under Sharia”.

Ayatollah Makharrem Shirazi also lent his support to the police chief, asking: “Why is it necessary for women to watch sports events in stadiums and what would happen if they didn’t?”

In recent months, the issue of women’s right to enter stadiums to watch sports events has become highly controversial, with the Rohani administration making every effort to the lift the ban. Meanwhile, extremists groups have threatened to strongly resist those efforts.

Another controversial issue has been the cancellation of concerts that have already received permits from the ministry of culture, causing serious discord between the administration and the police force.

Hassan Rohani, the Iranian president, spoke out today against the police closure of concerts, saying: “When a permit has been issued within the framework of the law and the people are invited to attend the concert and they all prepare to go to it, such interference is a violation of the people’s rights.”

Ayatollah Makharrem Shirazi was also quoted as saying today that the administration must refrain from making arguments that interfere with the responsibilities of the police force.