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Iranian Women Struggle to Get Into Football Stadiums

Iranian Women Struggle to Get Into Football Stadiums

Hyphenated human rights are not human rights; as in “Islamic human rights” are not human rights! Human rights are not given, they are there in human nature. That is; if people can protect them. And Iranians couldn’t. The issue of women’s presence in stadiums to watch spectator sports played by men is just one example of the violation of women’s basic rights in Iran, under the Islamic Republic regime.

Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, women enjoyed a lot of civil rights. The reason they lost them could be in the fact that they had not fought for those rights. Those rights were given to and sometimes forced on them by the last two Shahs of Iran, Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Rights including suffrage, being elected to any offices, choosing their clothing, etc.

Reza Shah banned hijab in Iran and enforced the ban by an iron fist. Clerics did everything in their power to stop him. They did the same vis-à-vis Mohammad Reza Shah’s decision to give women the right to vote and the right to be elected.   

Violation of women’s rights or implementation of Sharia law is so central to political Islam[1], that after the revolution, they executed the first and only female minister and elected member of the parliament on the basis of [moral] ‘corruption on earth’. And even after her execution they were not done with her. The body of the late Farrokhroo Parsay was washed and prepared for burial by female members of her family, because the funeral home workers refused to do the last offices for a ‘corrupt’ woman.

Iranian Women Struggle to Get Into Football Stadiums
Iranian Women Struggle to Get Into Football Stadiums

During his fight to topple the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini lied numerous times that under his regime human rights will be respected. He then claimed that his lies were the kind of lies permitted by Islam to protect one’s life, technically called Taqiya.

Although, there are many websites today that claim Mr. Khomeini did not lie (Taqiya), the most prominent living Iranian historian, Abbas Milani of Stanford University[2] and Hoover institute[3]says he did. It is noteworthy that such a prominent historian is Mr. Milani that his books have even been allowed to be published in Iran. Dr. Milani says of the Ayatollah:

“Not only did he hide his intentions, but he said the opposite routinely. He repeatedly claimed that the clerics are not going to have any role in politics.[4]

Risking digression, I have to note that it is not just the Iranian media whitewashing Islamists (proponents of political Islam.) The Islamophobic-phobic mainstream media in the free world do that too. They would even try to justify Taqiya, if it comes to it. In fact, they already have.

When Dr. Ben Carson was running for the Republican nomination in 2015 (20, September), he said that “Taqiyya is a component of Sharia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals.” That is exactly what Ayatollah Khomeini did. But giving him four Pinocchios, Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler ‘fact checked[5]’ Dr. Carson two days later and wrote this:

Carson is mouthing a discredited and inaccurate interpretation of a relatively minor section of the Koran (his spelling), with the apparent aim of painting all Muslims as untrustworthy. There is no evidence that the Koran encourages Muslims to lie in pursuit of goals. He earns Four Pinocchios.

The Post even quoted Abou El Fadl, the senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute that it amazed him that “although careful and balanced scholarship on Islam is being done at leading universities by scholars who have learned to read medieval Arabic texts, such research increasingly is ignored in favor of material published by “crazy ideologues, clowns and jokers” who often do not know how to read Arabic.

Ok! Let’s do this:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاء بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُواْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِّلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ وَالَّلاتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلاَ تَبْغُواْ عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلاً إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا[6]

Meaning:

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.[7]

Forget about all the parts that clearly state that women are inferior, but “ضرب” means (copy and pasted from google translate) hit, strike, multiply, pummel, pound, whip. And let’s not start with the Hadith.[8]

Of course, there are those who tell you that what you read is not there, and you need to have special knowledge to understand it. As a former activist, I can tell you that it is the same with all the ideologies that are flawed, and you have to sell.

Now, back to the issue of women’s rights and their right to attend spectator games, mainly soccer. But a disclaimer is needed:

There is no justification for violating the right to life, even if the victim takes her own life. As human rights activists, we have always encouraged the victims of human rights violations to refrain from actions that can hurt them, including hunger strikes, and of course, self-immolation.

On September 2nd, 2019, a female soccer fan who had been summoned to the Revolutionary Court, to face charges regarding her trying to enter the Azadi stadium in disguise as a boy set herself on fire in front of the court. Her charges were “openly committing a sinful act by… appearing in public without a hijab.[9] Unfortunately, we cannot undo what she did, but we can hear the statement that she made with her life and untimely and ugly death[10].

The Iranian state media attempted to turn this horrible incident into a mental health issue, claiming she had bipolar depression, with one instance of suicide attempt before. Her sister says[11] they had told the judge about her illness to no avail. She was reportedly told that she was going to be imprisoned for six months for the above mentioned ‘crimes.’ Sick or healthy, the responsibility of that horrible incident is on the policies and policy makers of the Islamic Republic, ruling Iran.

Let’s not leave this unsaid that the comparison some make with Saudi Arabia’s new freedoms for women is absolutely irrelevant. Mohammad bin Salman, the new de facto ruler of the Saudi Arabia, is trying to ‘give’ these rights to women who have never enjoyed them. It is different from Iran where woman used to have freedom to participate in every category or level of the society.

As expected, the death of the Blue Girl, as she came to be known, based on the color of her favorite team’s jersey, sent shock waves into the society that is already fighting the ruling Islamists. But leave it to CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) or NIAC (National Iranian American Council) to either justify or ignore the issue and push for the free world to normalize their relationship with the Islamic Republic regime.     

The issue of girls disguising themselves as boys to be able to go and watch soccer games is so widely recognized that in 2006, Jafar Panahi, the famed Academy Awards nominated filmmaker co-wrote and directed a movie called offside, a soccer term. The film is about girls who want to enter the stadium to watch the run-off game of the Iranian national team to the World Cup but get arrested[12]. The movie was never shown in Iranian theaters due to censorship.

It goes without saying that the discrimination is fundamental in women sports in Iran too. Iran women FC (Football Club) and Iran futsal women’s team members have to play wearing hijab. The international governing body of soccer, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) has put pressure on Iran regarding women spectators[13], and it seems to have been working. Of course, that is only one of the reasons the regime has backed down. The Blue Girl and the blue girls have played a vital role in every aspect of the society, including this issue. As a result, women can attend the run-off game between Iran national team and Cambodian national team on October 10th, 2019. That is two days from the time of this article.

The Iranian Football Federation (IFF) had set aside 3,500 tickets for women who would be sitting in a separate area of the stadium. The Azadi stadium has 100,000 seats. But still women bought out the tickets in minutes after the ban was lifted, despite the fact that there was no prior notice from the government or the IFF.

Needless to say, that there are many basic rights that women are deprived of in Iran, based on the enforced gender roles in the larger society, like the right to divorce, the right to custody of children, etc. but pushing back the Islamic regime this far is quite an achievement.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxdAD_1Nsfg

[2] https://web.stanford.edu/group/abbasmilani/cgi-bin/wordpress/

[3] https://www.hoover.org/profiles/abbas-milani

[4] https://www.radiofarda.com/a/fk_hijacked_revolution/25258256.html

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/09/22/ben-carsons-claim-that-taqiyya-encourages-muslims-to-lie-to-achieve-your-goals/

[6] https://quran.com/4

[7] Same: سورة النساء Check any Quran

[8] The prophet’s words, as in opposed to Quran that is the god’s word.

[9] https://ana.ir/fa/news/41/414942/دختر-آبی-کیست-و-چرا-خودکشی-کرد

[10] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/iran-shocking-death-of-football-fan-who-set-herself-on-fire-exposes-impact-of-contempt-for-womens-rights/

[11] Same

[12] https://www.aparat.com/v/MrziR/فیلم_کامل_آفساید

[13] https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/19/football/iran-women-football-fifa-infantino-spt-intl/index.html

About the writer: Farrokh Nikmaram is an American writer, blogger and former human rights and political activist who has become a regular contributor to Peachy Essay’s blog.

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