Iran allows women to enter soccer stadium for 1st time in decades

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Tehran (Iran), June 21 (IANS) A day after their national football team suffered a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Spain, female Iranian fans were on Thursday still relishing the feeling of having been allowed to enter a major soccer stadium for the first time in four decades, an activity they had hitherto been barred from participating in within their conservative and theocratic Asian nation.

Iranian women had on Wednesday night painted their faces with the red, white and green of the national flag and made history by streaming into Tehran’s enormous 100,000-capacity Azadi stadium to watch a live broadcast of the FIFA World Cup face-off, reports Efe

“This is the first time that I go to Azadi stadium and I am very happy,” Shirin Karami, a 29-year-old Master’s degree student, said from the stands form where giant screens could be watched in comfort.

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“I feel like there is freedom,” she expressed.

The name of the national team’s home stadium means “freedom” in Farsi; it was given to the field after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the shah and founded the current clergy-ruled republic.

A year after the revolution, the new authorities banned Iranian women from attending many public events and place, with soccer matches played at Azadi stadium a taboo activity.

Karami said she was not aware of any problems during the public viewing, adding that the women felt comfortable and that several female attendees rejected some of the conservative reasons given for the nearly 40-year-old ban on women at sports stadiums.

It is relatively commonplace for some Iranian women to attempt to enter stadiums dressed as men, despite the risk of being caught by police.

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Islamist leaders have explained that the ban on women at soccer matches is linked to the coarse language many soccer fans use while watching a game.

In Iranian culture, cursing is considered impolite and inappropriate for women, according to the country’s religious figureheads.

Two years ago, authorities began to allow a limited number of women to attend some soccer matches, but only through invitations.

Iranian women have also traveled to Russia to cheer on their team; however, local television censures footage of women at soccer matches who do not dress according to religious and state regulations.

–IANS

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