BY NANCY GILLEN.
Iranian women have been able to buy a small number of tickets for Iran’s FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia, following pressure from football’s governing body.
It has been reported by Reuters that 3,500 tickets were made available for Iranian women this morning and were all sold within minutes.
FIFA had expected a total of 4,600 tickets to be put on sale for the match on Thursday (October 10).
The venue, Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, has a capacity of 78,000.
A member of Open Stadiums, an organisation campaigning to allow Iranian women access to football matches, revealed the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) had not made an announcement regarding the sale of tickets.
Instead, word spread through social media.
FIFA has been increasing pressure on Iran to relax their ban on women entering stadiums, which has been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
There were reports in August that the FFIRI would allow women to attend the match against Cambodia, which were welcomed in the sporting community.
The situation worsened, however, when Iranian fan Sahar Khodayari committed suicide by setting herself on fire last month.
The 29-year-old Khodayari was arrested in March after disguising herself as a man and trying to sneak into a match between Iranian team Esteghlal and Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates at Azadi Stadium.
She was released pending a legal case but, upon returning to Ershad Courthouse to collect her phone on September 2, Khodayari learned that she could be tried by a revolutionary court and put in prison for six months.
She set herself on fire in protest and later died from her injuries.
Following calls from human rights groups for FFIRI to be penalised, FIFA President Gianni Infantino ramped up the pressure on Iran, sending a delegation to the country and demanding a lift on the ban.
The ban has been relaxed previously, with 100 Iranian women allowed to watch the men’s national team friendly against Bolivia last October, and 500 women attending the Asian Football Confederation Champions League final match in Tehran between Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers the following month.
Earlier in 2018, female fans were allowed to attend live screenings of Iran’s first two games at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Several women were arrested in June at the Azadi Stadium, however, having put on fake beards and wigs to attend Iran’s friendly against Syria.
Two fans were also removed from the FIFA Women’s World Cup match between Canada and New Zealand on June 15, having entered the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble wearing T-shirts calling for Iranian women to be let into stadiums.
FIFA then backtracked on the ejection, claiming the message was social and not political and, therefore, not breaching any rules.
Women in Iran also struggle to attend volleyball games, with a blanket ban on attendance issued in 2012.
The rules became more moderate in June 2017, with Iranian authorities allowing only a limited number of pre-vetted women to attend matches.
Iran is also facing international pressure in judo, with the International Judo Federation recently suspending the country over its anti-Israel stance.
It came following allegations that Saeid Mollaei was placed under pressure at the World Championships in Tokyo last month to avoid facing an Israeli athlete.
Mollaei alleged threats had been made against himself and his family.