Can you imagine being arrested just for trying to watch your favourite football team?
This happened to 35 female football fans when they tried to enter Iran’s national football stadium on 1 March, to join the crowd of 95,000 men watching Persepolis play Esteghlal, two Tehran-based football clubs that are long-time rivals. While these young women were being arrested outside the Azadi stadium, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was inside watching the Derby Day match with Iranian government officials.
Iran’s choice to discriminate against women and ban them from football stadiums flouts FIFA’s human rights policy and its statutes, which ban discrimination. Article 4 of FIFA’s Statutes says that discrimination of any kind “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
In just 50 days, Iran will compete in the men’s World Cup in Russia – the only World Cup team that bans its own women from attending football matches at home. Iran can and should change the rules so that Iranian women can join the crowd to watch men play. Just the same as every other team competing in Russia.
FIFA should insist Iran end the stadium ban for women before the World Cup’s opening ceremony.
Iranian fans—men and women—have been asking FIFA for many years to ensure that Iran’s football association follows FIFA’s rules and stops discriminating against Iranian female fans. In the past, Iran has allowed women of other nationalities to enter stadiums, hence, this is a direct attack on Iranian women. Year after year, Iran makes vague promises but nothing has changed.
Join us in calling on FIFA to stand up for female fans in Iran now – the clock is ticking to the kick-off of the Russia World Cup.
FIFA’s human rights policy is important. It promises protection to fans, to the workers who build stadiums and make World Cup merchandise, to players and to everyone else involved in football. Like any policy, it only has meaning if it is enforced, without exceptions.
All football fans, whatever their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation should be allowed to enjoy and support their favourite teams. International sport organizations like FIFA have an obligation to guarantee fair games and the opportunity to strengthen human rights in and through the world of sport.
Iranian football stars join the call: