Iranian officials opened the doors of Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to women after forty years, Wednesday evening, June 20, making headlines around the world.
Headlines in the International media marked Iranian women’s victory. The Evening Standard in London ran the headline “Victory for Iranian women,” NBC news observed that “Iranian women attended first world cup screening in nearly 40 years,” and CNN said “Iran loses to Spain but Iranian women celebrate landmark moment.”
Iranian women have been calling on the government and religious authorities for years to allow them to watch sports competitions at stadiums. Sometimes hardliners even deprive them of watching women’s matches. They have been beaten by the police and hardline vigilantes to keep them away from stadiums, but some get out of their way to get into stadiums in disguise.
Renowned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi even made the internationally acclaimed movie OffSide in 2006 about girls entering a stadium disguised as young men.
Thousands of families had been waiting outside the stadium for several hours while riot police prevented women from getting closer to the gates, and officials were debating whether to open the doors to let women and their families to watch the World Cup game between Iran and Spain’s soccer teams on a video screen.
Officials had announced Wednesday morning that women would be allowed to go the stadium. Some 30 thousand tickets were sold on the Internet and thousands showed up hours before the match, official news agency (IRNA) reported.
It was a few hours before the match, however, when officials announced that the plan to show the game live at the stadium had been cancelled.
IRNA quoted the stadium’s manager Nasser Mahmoudifar as saying that although he did not received any order not to let people in for the game, “the police are preventing entry to the stadium.’
Meanwhile the public relation’s office of Tehran’s governor also announced that the governor’s office has had no objection to families watching the match at the stadium together, meaning that women were also allowed to be there.
In another report later in the day, IRNA said that the Rouhani “administration has intervened in the matter, and the problem has been resolved.”
In the meantime, the Iranian Judiciary also denied that it had ordered the doors of the stadium to remain closed to women.
This was while thousands of Iranians, mainly women joined a campaign on Twitter and other social media demanding the doors of Azadi Stadium to be opened for women.
At the same time, hundreds of families sat on the ground outside the stadium to show their protest.
Reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeqi tweeted the hashtag “several governments in one country” highlighting the controversy which was caused by conflicting orders issued by different authorities.
Saying that 20 thousand tickets have been sold for the match, Sadeqi wrote “We really do not need a foreign enemy when we cannot live in peace with our own people.”
In a later Tweet after the doors were opened, Sadeqi wrote “The Azadi Stadium has been liberated,” adding “When we are incapable of solving the simplest problems, this means that we are part of the problem.”
Prominent political analyst Abbas Abdi tweeted “Cancelling the plan to show the match at the stadium only means that those who fear even their own shadow, are afraid of the people’s presence.”
Tehran MP Fatemeh Hosseini also tweeted that the doors of the Azadi stadium has been “opened to families thanks to follow-ups,” but did not say who followed the case.
In another development, Police had ordered coffee shops in Tehran and Mashad to close in the afternoon so that people would not gather there to watch the match. However, after the doors of the stadium were opened, police sent another directive to coffee shops, letting them stay open till late so that people could watch the game together, Iranian students News Agency ISNA reported.
This was Iran’s second match in World Cup 2018. Iran won the first match against Morocco one to nil and thousands took to the streets to celebrate the victory. The match in front of Spain also ended one-nil with Spain as the winner.