Iranian regime security forces attacked hundreds of female soccer fans seeking to enter a stadium in Mashhad, northeast Iran, for a World Cup 2022 soccer qualifying match on Tuesday. The regime’s oppressive security forces used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
Regime officials had sold around stadium tickets to 2,000 women, according to state-run ISNA news agency on Tuesday. The Iranian Football (Soccer) Federation, however, claimed on the same day that only nine women had purchased match tickets. This bears the signs of the mullahs’ regime attempting to deceive FIFA by reporting the sale of 2,000 to Iranian women, while in practice prevent the women from entering the stadium.
“We were following orders from Tehran,” said the regime’s governor in the city of Mashhad to state media. Regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei knows very well that even the slightest crack in his high wall of domestic crackdown, especially a rift caused by Iranian women, will have lasting impact on his entire misogynist apparatus and across the country.
Social media reports and video footages showed women being refused entry, and many choking and crying following the security forces’ raid outside Mashhad’s Imam Reza stadium.
Women in Iran have been barred from attending football/soccer matches by the ruling mullahs’ regime since the 1979 revolution. On March 29 the issue of football and women’s presence in stadiums evolved into an outpouring international crisis for the regime.
This is a reminder that basic social matters transforming into ever-growing challenges is a characteristic of crisis-riddled states. This is vividly true of the status quo in Iran for the mullahs’ regime. Economics, international relations, escalating social demands, the environment, internal divides, wide-range corruption, etc., have all become unavoidable and irremediable calamities for the ruling regime in Iran.
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Speaker of the Iranian regime’s Majlis (Parliament), has described this subject as “illogical,” ordering the Majlis Domestic Commission to resolve the matter. Head of the regime’s judiciary was particularly fuming in his remarks, saying “officials should have used their minds” and prevented such a challenge for the regime’s entire apparatus.
Despite the heavy filtering and internet censorship, concerns among regime officials are escalating as the resulting social outrage is specifically targeting Khamenei, regime President Ebrahim Raisi, and Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad, Ahmad Alamalhoda.
In October 2019, under pressure from FIFA, the Iranian Football Federation permitted only a selective and very restricted number of women into a stadium for a World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia. Reports at the time indicated that the entire scheme was nothing but a state-directed sham. It was the first time that Iranian women bought tickets and went to watch a football/soccer game, not being forced to disguised as men, but as football-loving women.
Prior to that in September 2019, FIFA threatened to suspend Iran’s football team if the regime continued to bar women’s access to matches. FIFA ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers to be determined according to demand for tickets.
The measure followed the self-immolation of Sahar Khodayari, also known as the Blue Girl, in September 2019 in protest to a six-month jail sentence issued by the regime’s so-called judiciary for bypassing the ban on women’s entry into sports stadiums.
It was hoped that women would be permitted to attend matches in stadiums afterwards. But the Iranian Football Federation has not allowed women into stadiums under a variety of pretexts.
Women were to be allowed in the stadium again in early October 2020 for a World Cup qualifier against South Korea, only to see a late decision force the event to be held behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
FIFA needs to stand alongside the women of Iran and suspend mullahs’ regime according to on international standards to safeguard women’s rights in this regard.
The dilemma before Iran’s regime is now an even bigger one. This incident has proven, once again, the true nature of this misogynist and oppressive regime ruling Iran. The mullahs’ regime is depriving women—half the country’s population—of their most basic rights in all aspect of social and political life, a fact that has been highlighted in numerous human rights studies, including the latest report by Amnesty International.
The free world cannot ignore these realities and must predicate any and all engagement with the illegitimate mullahs’ regime on meaningful improvements in human rights, including the rights of Iranian women.