Iran Announces: Women May Now Attend Male Sports – Within Limits

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Supporters hold a banner reading 'Let Iranian women enter their stadiums' during the friendly international football match between Sweden and Iran, March 31, 2015.Credit: AFP

Iranian authorities have partially lifted a ban on women attending men's sports matches, a senior sports official said Saturday.

Deputy Sports Minister Abdolhamid Ahmadi said Iran's State Security Council has approved a plan by his ministry to allow women and families to attend some sports events, the official IRNA news agency reported Saturday, adding that the plan would be implemented sometime this year.

Ahmadi, however, cautioned that not all matches or stadiums would allow women, but did not elaborate. Ahmadi said only that the issue would, "depend on the type of sport."

Women have been banned from attending men's sports matches since the 1979 revolution that brought hard-line Islamic clerics to power. The idea was to prevent crowds of unrelated men and women from mixing publicly. In the past, exceptions have been granted to allow foreign women living in Iran to attend matches by their visiting national teams.

The announcement comes after FIFA President Sepp Blatter urged Iran last month to end the "intolerable" ban on women watching football in stadiums.

Iran recently lost a bid against the United Arab Emirates to host the 2019 Asian Cup, with some officials saying the ban on female attendance played a factor in the decision. Iran has allowed foreign women to attend matches of their national teams.

Iran's ban on women on women attending sports matches made headlines last year, when a British-Iranian woman was sentenced to a year in prison after she tried to attend a men's volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

The woman, Ghoncheh Ghavami, tried to enter the Tehran stadium were the game was held together with other women to protest the ban, according to Amnesty International, when she was arrested and later convicted of "propagating against the ruling system."

She has since been released on bail ahead of an appeal.

The strict segregation also came to international attention when the Iranian soccer team played in the Asian Cup in Australia last year. Some embarrassment was caused to the regime when the team's local female fans, members of the Iranian diaspora, took selfies with the Iranian ballplayers. The widely publicized photos led to an edict from Tehran, forbidding the players from posing for photographs with female fans.

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