A group of female soccer fans in Iran sported fake beards and wigs and dressed like men last week to flout a longstanding ban on women spectators at sporting events in images and videos shared on social media.

The images and videos of the women, draped in the red flag of their favourite soccer club, Persepolis, and singing along to chants during the game on Friday, went viral.

In one video uploaded to Instagram, Mohadeseh Mahdavifar expresses her dream to one day be able to attend a match in women’s clothing. The caption accompanying the post says that she has dreamed of being able to watch a soccer game in a stadium since she was 6 years old.

Her profile notes that she is a fan of Ali Karimi, a retired Iranian soccer player who was nicknamed the “Maradona of Asia” and spent some of his career playing for Persepolis.

In one photo, Mahdavifar is seen lifting up six fingers, a gesture referencing the 6-0 battering of Persepolis’ rivals, Esteghlal, in 1973.

Persepolis beat Sepidrood Rasht 3-0 and was crowned champions of the Persian Gulf Pro League in Friday’s match.

Iranian women have been banned from attending male soccer matches and other sports fixtures since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former president of Iran, lifted the ban in 2006, but the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, overturned the decision just a month later.

Those in favour of the ban have justified it by arguing that it is inappropriate for women to hear male fans swear at soccer games. But Human Rights Watch, a non-profit, notes that the ban was extended to volleyball games in 2012—a sport that many consider to be family-friendly.

Women have long agitated to defy the ban on their attendance at male-only sporting events by employing disguises, often at great risk.

Several women were arrested in 2014 for trying to attend a volleyball match at the Azadi Stadium in the Iranian capital of Tehran. One of them, Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian student, spent 100 days in prison and much of it in solitary confinement.

At least 35 women and girls were detained by police at the same stadium in March for trying to attend a soccer match that was attended by FIFA president Gianni Infantino. When a journalist asked Masoud Soltanifar, Iran’s sport minister, when women would be allowed to attend soccer matches, the live broadcast was taken off air. 

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the governing bodies of international sports, like FIFA, to bar Iran from hosting major competitions until its ban on women spectators is overturned.

Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women attendance at sporting events last year, as a part of a series of reforms spearheaded by the kingdom’s crown prince to incrementally modernize one of the world’s most restrictive countries.



اصلا نميدونم از كجا شروع كنم...همش از يه رويا شروع شد وقتي ك6سالم بودم همه ي بازيارو با بابام ميرفتم استاديوم من با اين تيم بزرگ شدم اشك ريختم ذوق كردم براش هر سال و هرسال بزرگ تر شدم اما به خودم ك اومدم ديدم جلو در ورزشگاه ايستادم و نميزارن برم داخل چرا؟چون تو يه دختري اره لعنتي جرم تو فقط اينه كه يه دختري دلم خيلي پُره اين خنده هارو نبينيد ما با بغض تو ورزشگاه بوديم با اين بغض كه چرا الان نميتونم بغل پدرم باشم بغل مادرم باشم باهم فوتبال و ببينيم بغض كردم از اينكه واسه يه حق طبيعي چقد خودمو به اب و اتيش زدم ...پرسپوليس تو شش سالگي مني تو نه سالگي مني تو ١٣سالگي مني تو ١٨سالگي مني تو مقدس ترين نامي هستي ك توي قلبمه...#دلنوشته�������� @fari_perspolisi @leili_ghanbari @aliiiiiiiikarimi8 @shabnam_red @zeinab_perspolisi_ak8 @khoshnavazzahra @hedie_km_ak8 @saghar.perspolisii @@shahinsamadpoor

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