Two days after a young female football fan died of her self-immolation injuries, President Hassan Rouhani’s government exhibited contradictory reactions, while domestic and international criticism continues unabated.
The Blue Girl, as she was dubbed on social media was being prosecuted for trying to enter a stadium to watch a men’s football (Soccer) game; forbidden for women in Iran. She poured gasoline on herself and lit it on September 1 as an act of protest against this particular discriminatory policy.
While president Rouhani’s spokesman said women should be allowed into men’s sports matches, his chief of staff remarked that “it would not be the right decision”.
Rouhani himself made an indirect reference to the incident, saying, “People have enough hardship and sadness…We should not allow carelessness to create new heartaches for them”.
Without any written laws, Iran’s clerical rulers have banned women from entering stadiums to watch men’s sports since 1980, right after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. International sports federations and governing bodies have protested and threatened Iran with bans, but so far the policy has not changed.
The reason for the ban cited by clerics and officials is that crowd atmosphere during football matches is not suitable for women. Also, there is the issue of Islamic practice that men and women who are not from the same family should not mix together in public gatherings.