Iran: Limited allocation of football tickets for women a ‘cynical publicity stunt’

Iran’s authorities must lift all restrictions on women attending matches in all football stadiums, said Amnesty International ahead of Iran’s football World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on 10 October.

The game marks the first time Iran will allow women into Azadi Stadium since the shocking death of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire last month after being summoned to court to face charges after trying to enter the football stadium.

The authorities have limited the number of tickets sold to women to attend tomorrow’s match. Only four sections of the stadium have been allocated to women spectators totalling around 3,500 seats. The Azadi Stadium has a capacity of around 78,000 seats. 

“Iran’s decision to allow a token number of women into the stadium for tomorrow’s football match is a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari’s tragic death,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International.

Anything short of a full reversal of the ban on women accessing all football stadiums is an insult to Sahar Khodayari’s memory and an affront to the rights of all the women of Iran who have been courageously campaigning for the ban to be lifted
Philip Luther, MENA Research and Advocacy Director

“Anything short of a full reversal of the ban on women accessing all football stadiums is an insult to Sahar Khodayai’s memory and an affront to the rights of all the women of Iran who have been courageously campaigning for the ban to be lifted.

“Instead of taking half-hearted steps to address their discriminatory treatment of women who want to watch football, the Iranian authorities should lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, including domestic league games, across the country. The international community, including world football’s governing body, FIFA, must also ensure that woman are permitted to attend all matches .

“FIFA has a responsibility to respect human rights throughout its operations and the power under its statutes to take definitive and urgent action to address a situation which it has allowed to continue for far too long.”

Publicly, FIFA has reiterated its position that women should be permitted to enter football stadiums for all matches. Despite these efforts, Iran’s authorities have not lifted all restrictions on women attending football matches.

Since the beginning of 2018, at least 40 women have been arrested and some prosecuted for attempting to enter football stadiums. Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against any woman facing prosecution for attempting to enter a football stadium or protesting against such restrictions.