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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Sporting chance for Iranian women
Iranian football fans
Iran's stadiums have been a male-only domain since 1979
Women in Iran are to be allowed to attend major sporting events, ending a ban that has held since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the lifting of the ban would "promote chastity" among all Iranians.

Women must have a chance to watch all sporting events, he said, and must be given the best seats in the house.

The move was welcomed by women's rights campaigners, who have long protested against their banishment from stadiums.

Speaking on state-run television, Mr Ahmadinejad said he had ordered the head of Iran's Physical Education Committee to make sure women were adequately catered for during Iran's major sporting occasions.

"The presence of women and families in public places promotes chastity," he said.

"The best stands should be allocated to women and families in the stadiums in which national and important matches are being held."

'Bearing fruit'

The ban on women attending major matches was imposed in 1979 when the country's newly adopted Islamic code forbade women from watching men play sport.

There were regular protests against the ban, especially when women supporting visiting foreign teams were allowed into stadiums to watch their side.

Women in Tehran
Iranian women have been allowed to watch some smaller sports

Authorities have allowed women to watch smaller sports, such as basketball or volleyball.

But watching Iran's popular national football team has remained a male-only pastime for 27 years.

Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh, a women's rights activist, described Mr Ahmadinejad's decision as "positive and logical".

"Our efforts have finally born fruit," she told AFP news agency.

The relaxation of the sporting ban is the second apparent concession by Mr Ahmadinejad in as many days.

Officials in the capital, Tehran, last week launched a campaign to insist women obey Iran's strict Islamic dress codes.

But on Sunday Mr Ahmadinejad said the policy would not be enforced by confrontation.

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