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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Iran's women fans await stadium access
Spectators are all men
Iranian women were restricted to watching football on TV

For 23 years, supporting their favourite football team from the terraces has not been an option for women in Iran.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been banned from attending men's sporting events.

But now this could all be about to change.

The cabinet's Cultural Committee has given its provisional approval to allow women to attend matches, provided that the sporting authorities are able to create the "necessary conditions".

Football frenzy

Football in Iran has many female fans.

In 1998, hundreds of women forced their way into the Azadi Sport Complex in Tehran to welcome home the victorious national team which had defeated Australia in a World Cup qualifying game.

The authorities turned a blind eye to the "incident" and the subsequent female jubilation on the street.


A large show of interest is no evidence of ethical correctness


Jomhuri-ye Eslami

A women's football league was formed later that year.

All women football matches are held indoors and no male spectator is allowed to watch.

In recent years there has been a growing movement in the media to allow women to attend men's football games.

Iranian fans

Zanan, a women's monthly magazine, criticised the authorities for their "discriminatory practices" when they allowed the female fans of Ireland's football team to attend the World Cup 2002 qualifying match in Tehran's national stadium.

Earlier this year the now banned pro-reform daily Azad published an article saying that some girls liked football so much that they would disguise themselves as boys to get into the stadium and watch the games.

Opposition

But the change has its opponents too.

The conservative newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami is against the idea of women spectators attending men's matches.

"It is true that a large number of girls would like to watch a football match at a stadium," the paper concedes, but it adds that "a large show of interest is no evidence of ethical correctness".

"There are a lot of people in the world who would like alcohol, drugs and gambling, all of which are ugly, unpleasant and forbidden habits," the paper says.

The article, however, deems watching the game on TV "appropriate".


Women must have the freedom to choose whether they want to watch a football match at the stadium or not

London-based Iranian journalist

It believes watching live games are "actually seeing naked flesh", which it says is un-Islamic.

But a London-based Iranian journalist, Farangis Mohebbi, disagrees.

She told BBC News Online that men behaving badly at football matches has always been used as an excuse to prevent women from attending games.

"Women must have the freedom to choose whether they want to watch a football match at the stadium or not," she said.

Headline photograph is published with permission of tehran24.com

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

23 Feb 00 | Middle East
03 Mar 99 | Crossing Continents
01 Aug 00 | Middle East
28 Jul 02 | Middle East
14 Nov 01 | World Cup 2002
15 Nov 01 | Sports Talk
Links to more Media reports stories are at the foot of the page.


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