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FIFA Says Negotiations Continue With Iran To Allow Women Attend Matches

A handout picture released by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him (R) and FIFA President Gianni Infantino holding a football shirt with Rouhani's name during Infantino's visit to the capital Tehran on March 1, 2018.

Women should be able to attend all football (soccer) matches in Iran, the International Football Federation has responded to a Radio Farda's query.

Earlier, it was reported that FIFA had set a deadline for Iran to pave the way for women to freely enter sports arenas and watch men's live soccer matches.

In a letter to the head of Iran's Football Federation in June the president of FIFA demanded to be informed of the "concrete steps" the Iranian government would be taking to lift its ban on women entering stadiums by September.

"I would be very grateful if you could inform FIFA, at your earliest convenience but no later than July 15 2019, as to the concrete steps which... [Iran] will now be taking in order to ensure that all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and attend the matches of the Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which will start in September 2019," wrote FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the letter signed June 18, 2019.

On August 8, FIFA reiterated its position in response to questions submitted by Radio Farda. "As stated on many occasions by FIFA and the FIFA President, our objective is that women be allowed to attend all football matches in Iran," FIFA has said in its response to Radio Farda, adding, "We have engaged, and continue to engage, with both the Iranian football authorities and the Iranian State authorities on this important matter", FUFA said.

In the original June letter, a copy of which was obtained by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Infantino had asserted, "Whilst we are aware of the challenges and cultural sensitivities, we simply have to continue making progress here, not only because we owe it to women all over the world, but also because we have a responsibility to do so, under the most basic principles set out in the FIFA Statutes," he added.

Infantino did not state what would happen if Iran fails to respond by September.

Meanwhile, FIFA has warned that should Iran not let women freely enter the sports arenas to watch football games, it would step by step punish the country, and ultimately ban it from participation in all international soccer events.

Nonetheless, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Sports, Mohammad Reza Davarzani, has reiterated that the ministry does not believe in allowing women attend Iranian league soccer matches since conditions are not suitable. He did not explain what these conditions are.

Therefore, Davarzani has implicitly maintained that Iran might only allow women to attend international events held in the country.

Furthermore, Iran's conservative prosecutor-general has also reiterated his opposition to women attending live football matches, dismissing a deadline by FIFA to force Iran to scrap the ban,

The mid-ranking cleric, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, who is renowned for not mincing his words, said late Wednesday, August 7, "FIFA's has no sympathy for Iranian women, and its insistence on allowing them to enter arenas and watch male footballers competing against each other, is a reflection of enemy's infiltration in Iran."

In the meantime, FIFA acknowledged to Radio Farda that negotiations with Tehran were underway. "At the moment, FIFA is in specific discussions with these authorities with a view to ensuring that women will be able to attend the qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which start in October."

Article 4 of FIFA's regulations stipulates, "Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion."

Iran is the only country in the world that bans women from sports stadiums. The unwritten law has been supported by religious conservatives and political hardliners in Iran since 1980, a year after the downfall of the pro-West monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.