An Iranian woman arrested and detained for attending a soccer match in the country died this week after setting herself on fire once she discovered she could be jailed for the transgression, the Associated Press reported.
The death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari has fans all over the world putting pressure on FIFA to “enforce its own human rights rules” as Iran’s first home World Cup qualifying match looms next month.
Khodayari disguised herself as a man by wearing a blue wig for her team’s colors and a long overcoat, earning the name “Blue Girl” around social media, to attend Tehran’s Azadi Stadium and watch her favorite team, Esteghlal, play the United Arab Emirates team, Al Ain, in March.
Why doesn’t Iran allow women in stadiums?
Khodayari had to disguise herself as a man to watch her favorite team in person because women are forbidden from attending in Iran. They’re also forbidden to watch in public places, such as restaurants. Religious leaders argue it violates Muslim law promoting piety.
The ban has been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was briefly rescinded in 2006, per the Washington Post. This past October, women were allowed to attend their national team’s friendly in a separate section of the stadium from men. Hundreds flocked to the stadium for their opportunity.
Other than that one instance, which political leaders made clear was a one-time event, women commonly disguise themselves as men to attend soccer as well as other sports such as volleyball, the second most popular sport in Iran.
Amnesty International told the AP as far as it’s aware, “Iran is the only country that stops and punishes women” for trying to get into soccer stadiums after Saudi Arabia eased out its rules recently.
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