Watching a football game in public is a basic right women in Iran have been denied for decades. One name that will forever live in the hearts of feminists around the world is that of "Blue Girl," a 30-year-old woman who set herself on fire recently after learning she may have to serve a six-month sentence for attempting to enter a football stadium in the country.
Months before Iran lost Blue Girl, football's governing body FIFA set a deadline (Aug. 31) for Iran to allow women into stadiums. Following the death of Sahar Khodayri, FIFA's president Gianni Infantino spoke to Iranian officials urging them to lift the ban, which Infantino described as "unacceptable." Recently, it was confirmed that women have been given the green light to attend men's football matches starting with the World Cup qualifier next month.
Speaking at a FIFA conference on Sunday, Infantino said he had been "assured" that women will be allowed to attend Iran's upcoming football match against Cambodia, according to CNN.
Fifa officials spent a week in Iran to discuss the Oct. 10 match, which will be Iran's first home game of the 2022 qualification process.
"We have been assured that as of the next international game of Iran... women will be allowed to enter football stadiums," Infantino said on Sunday.
"This is something very important - in 40 years this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions."
Although there is no official ban in place, women in Iran are often refused entry as reported by the BBC. According to Human Rights Watch, this unofficial prohibition has barred women from entering stadiums since 1981. This was temporarily lifted last year to give women the chance to watch the streaming of World Cup matches from a stadium in Tehran.
During the conference on Sunday, the FIFA president reiterated his point of view, stating that the female sports sector must progress in Iran.
"There is women's football in Iran. We need to have women attending the men's game," Infantino said. "And we need to push for that, with respect but in a strong and forceful way. We cannot wait anymore."
It will start with the qualification game for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, but must continue allowing women to enter stadiums regardless of who is playing.
"FIFA's position is firm and clear: women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran. For all football matches," the football organization previously wrote in a statement.
In March 2018, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that women in the country will soon be able to attend football matches. That same day, 35 women were arrested for sneaking into a football stadium. Less than two months later, another group of Iranian women dressed up as men to enter a football stadium. "Why should I be scared? We women do not commit any crimes by going to stadiums," one woman said at the time.
"The law has not defined women's presence at stadiums as a crime. They have, of course, detained a few women and they have given a written promise not to go back there again."
Earlier this month, the death of Blue Girl reignited the debate on women's rights in Iran.
Blue Girl was first arrested for three days in March after attempting to enter a football stadium. She was released on bail as she waited for her court case. When the time came, she appeared in court only to discover that it had been postponed as the judge had a family emergency. During that hearing, she also learned that she may have to serve a six-month sentence for what she had done, so she killed herself.
Authorities in the kingdom have not just limited women's outing preferences, but have also taken action against women who have been caught dancing, performing Zumba, or who have removed their hijabs in public.