But will it last?
By The Free Iranian Staff
Since its inception, the Khomeiniist regime has repeatedly resorted to fraudulent displays of “reform” away from, and “relaxation” of, its Islamist core values when confronted with pressure from abroad. Once the pressure is reduced, or the perceived danger has passed, the regime quickly cracks down and reverts to its true nature. The event that occurred on Thursday, which the international media billed as the first time Iranian women were allowed to attend a sporting event in decades, was another such fraudulent display.
For many years, Iranian women have done everything in their power to get the international community to take notice of the Khomeinist regime’s refusal to permit them to enter football stadiums, watch the matches, and cheer on their favorite teams. The international body governing the sport, FIFA, however, remained aloof to their situation, and other than offering a few flaky platitudes, did nothing to exert pressure on Tehran to allow women their right to enjoy sports. In one egregious example of this, in March 2018, Gianni Infantino, the head of FIFA, was present at a match in Tehran while women were being arrested outside the stadium for trying to sneak in dressed in men’s clothing. Only after an Iranian woman, Sahar Khodayari, the famous “Blue Girl,” set herself on fire last month to avoid going to prison for defying the regime’s ban on women’s participation in spectator sports, did the world finally raise ire against Tehran’s misogyny. A delegation from FIFA visited Iran at the end of September, and threatened to expel Iran from international competitions if women weren’t allowed in stadiums.
Now, the world celebrates what is being promoted as Iranian women being allowed to enter a stadium for the first time in decades, on October 10th, to see their national team beat Cambodia. Unfortunately, though, as the eyewitness testimonies and images displayed below reveal, this was only another of the regime’s many staged, deceptive spectacles.
Tehran’s Azadi (formerly Aryamehr) Stadium seats 78,000 people. Thursday’s match attendance was well below capacity, with only 2,500 men buying tickets, as can be seen in the many noticeably empty seats in videos of the crowds. However, the number of women allowed to enter the venue was restricted to only 3,000. Tickets for women only went on sale one day before the match, and quickly sold out. Women took to social media to complain about this, using the hashtag #WakeUpFIFA to draw attention to the continuing discrimination.
Many thousands of women who were unable to obtain tickets to the match waited outside the stadium, hoping that they would be allowed in.
From total 75,000 tickets men bought 2500 tickets and women Could buy around 3000.
Rest of the stadium is empty but FA doesn’t want to give more seats to women. https://t.co/Iz1ePMQEWL
— OpenStadiums (@openStadiums) October 9, 2019
The women outside chanted the phrase “3.5%” and drew it on the ground, to protest the token amount of space they were being provided.
— Ali Mostafapour (@AliMostafapour8) October 10, 2019
Women attendees were forced to enter the stadium separately from the men, and were restricted to four sections of the stadium’s boxes, which were sealed off from the rest of it by iron bars. The women described this arrangement as being in a cage.
— Hm ???? (@HmSolhi) October 4, 2019
Female photographers and journalists were also denied permission to cover the event.
— moya dodd (@moyadodd) October 9, 2019
Due to the strangely limited number of men attending, and available tickets for all, some Iranians questioned whether the whole match itself was being staged by the regime simply to show FIFA that women being were allowed to watch.
The pictures tell everything,
regime agents between women football fans,
caged part for women,
Stop sales ticket to women while stadium was empty,
Iran regime planned a show to make a fool of #FIFA!
Women still don’t get their own rights so!#WakeUpFIFA pic.twitter.com/kYE4yrwGHD
— Amir JinJigh (@JiinJiGh) October 10, 2019
The Repression and Restrictions Inside the Stadium
One inside, the women were faced with 150 Basij members, a ratio of one Basij per 20 fans, who ordered them not to chant slogans about The Blue Girl.
150 female police will observe Iranian women who will be in stadium for Iran vs. Cambodia match.
Around 3000 tickets sold to women,
Head of Iran’s special forces. https://t.co/fZpepRkY8P
— OpenStadiums (@openStadiums) October 7, 2019
What a sham!??
The footage shows the female basiji is telling to women in football stadium that if they chant slogans about the #bluegirl, they’ll be thrown out.
This’s before a woman arrested for holding a placard saying “#bluegirl, you live on forever”. https://t.co/CO4pc56Jnc
— Violet (@Daffodil27) October 10, 2019
One woman dared, however, lift up a poster reading “Blue Girl, your name will live forever,” and was immediately arrested.
Restricted number of Iranian women were allowed in to see the game between Iran & Cambodia
Women’s section was packed with police who are seen trying to remove a young girl who’s holding a banner in support of #BlueGirl
The banner reads “Blue girl of Iran, your name is eternal” https://t.co/pF4mSkr5rl
— Iran Revival | فَرَشگَرد (@iranfarashgard) October 10, 2019
Another woman held up a sign in English demanding full access for women to attend all matches, not just those of the national team.
بنری که تماشاگران زن در بازی ایران و کامبوج در دست داشتند: «بازی ملی کافی نیست. بگذارید زنان برای بازیهای لیگ نیز به استادیوم بیایند.»
این تازه آغاز راه بود: زنانی که از این پیروزی اعتماد به نفس گرفتهاند، به این کم راضی نیستند و به دنبال دستیابی به حقوق کاملشان هستند. pic.twitter.com/uLYX9VsMxp
— Iran Revival | فَرَشگَرد (@iranfarashgard) October 10, 2019
Despite the Basij’s attempts to control the situation, the women rallied and all began chanting slogans of admiration for the Blue Girl.
Iranian women went to the stadium yesterday to watch a soccer game! Then what?! As a girl holding a sign in the legacy of #BlueGirl, a group of Basiji female thugs were trying to arrest her! The crowd drew weww tried e to prevent her arrest! pic.twitter.com/8zQyaOEuPL
— Peymaneh Shafi (@peymaneh123) October 11, 2019
Government-employed guide in the bus: Please don’t chant about #BlueGirl
— Mohammad Mohammadkhani (@M0_Mkh) October 10, 2019
Other women attendees mentioned being closely watched, and beaten, by the Basij.
#Iran According to mini narratives from inside Azadi stadium, the female guards based in the stadium are harshly treating those female spectators who smoke or unveil. Some videos feature women who chant in favour of #BlueGirl being attacked by the female guards./1
— Leily Nikounazar (@LeilyNikounazar) October 10, 2019
At the end of the match, the national team’s captain, Massoud Shojaei, went up to the women’s area with his teammates and personally thanked the female fans for coming. Shojaei’s sister, Maryam, has been a leading advocate for letting women attend sporting events.
Religious Vigilantes Outside
More than 100 members of the a religiously sanctioned vigilante group entitled People’s Organization for Knowledge and Avoiding Sin (Amr’eh beh ma’aroof, nahi’ie az monker) made up of pro-regime fanatic Islamists known, among other crimes and social misconduct, for making violent demonstrations against women’s rights, held a protest outside the Islamic Parliament (Majles) against even a small group of women being allowed to attend a match. For a week, the group had been passing out flyers condemning the limited attendance permission that regime officials had granted, and attempting to persuade women to not go to the match. The fact that only a few men showed up to this long-planned protest was taken by Iranians as proof that Khomeinist misogyny only has a tiny constituency within the country these days.
— OpenStadiums (@openStadiums) October 7, 2019
The Struggle Continues
Iranians were not fooled by this one-day show. Maryam Shojaei was one of the first activists to say, “This is not what we fought for.”
— Maryam Shojaei (@MaryamShoja) October 10, 2019
Other activists expertly argued that regime apologists in the west made that the October 10th match somehow represented “progress” for Iranian women, while bringing attention to the reality that women in Iran are still imprisoned for visiting stadiums.
WTF are you talking about? A woman had to burn herself alive, international pressure had to be mobilized, FIFA had to step in… https://t.co/TXSkXrCfvx
— Kaveh Shahrooz کاوه شهروز (@kshahrooz) October 11, 2019
You wouldn’t applaud KKK for allowing African -Americans to share a stadium with whites.
No reason to applaud Islamic Republic of Iran for allowing less than 4000 women in a stadium of 100000 to watch a football game — in a cage.
40 years too slow and too late.
— saman arbabi ?️ (@SamanArbabi) October 10, 2019
Self-described Reformists and pro-Reform figures in the West are trying to attribute women being allowed to men’s stadium to civil society, when it was clearly FIFA’s pressure, because the narrative of foreign pressure being able to work doesn’t jive with their narrative.
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) October 10, 2019
Today, I had tears in my eyes as my fellow female compatriots in Iran were in stadiums for the first time
Yet, the regime let women in with strings attached:
1) They called in 300 undercover female agents
2) kept many women out
3) built a cage for women.
Wake up FIFA pic.twitter.com/vQiRskGjGw
— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 10, 2019
40 women arrested last 2 years just for attending a football match, some even prosecuted & have criminal records, there must be no let-up in pressure applied on FIFA & Iran to stop this appalling outrage https://t.co/a3gQ8ErJWm
— Omid Djalili (@omid9) October 10, 2019
Amnesty International also condemned what it called a “half-hearted” move by regime officials, calling for a full repeal of the ban on women.
“Instead of taking half-hearted steps to address 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.”https://t.co/mkZzktZAF2
— Amnesty International (@amnestyusa) October 12, 2019
FIFA has long claimed to be working for equal rights for all to attend its events, but Iranians remember just how hypocritical FIFA officials can be. Thursday’s stunt only came about after an international outcry for Sahar Khodayari. Will FIFA continue to pressure the regime, or will things return to business as usual as consciousness of Sahar’s death fades from public attention?
No, Leily jaan. Celebrating this—cosmetic, insulting concession—as a historic, exquisite breakthrough gives the regime much undeserved credit. Just not good enough, and we should say so. I for one could not in good conscience go to the stadium. https://t.co/PsTjmk0muz
— Mariam Memarsadeghi (@memarsadeghi) October 10, 2019
A year ago, the fascist islamic regime fooled @FIFAcom & @TheAFCCL by letting few women enter the stadium, & a few months later the national tragedy of #bluegirl happened!
Once again, mullahs are doing it! And seems the world is falling for it!#NoBan4Women#با_من_به_ورزشگاه_بیا https://t.co/5huEGh7aWe pic.twitter.com/H7FJiSRnRC
— Insider (@InsideIran_24) October 11, 2019