Iran officially celebrated the national soccer team’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil at a “men-only” party yesterday in Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Women were banned from entering.
Female fans were kept behind metal barriers away from the official celebrations, according to the state-owned IRNA news service. Photographs of women waving flags outside the stadium were posted on social networking sites.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured onto the streets to party and dance after the national soccer team, popularly known as Team Melli, unexpectedly beat South Korea on June 18.
The spontaneous celebration marked the second time in four days that Iranians partied on the streets. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands celebrated the surprise victory of Hassan Rohani, a cleric backed by Iranian reformers, in presidential elections to replace the outgoing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Rohani, Rohani we’re going to the World Cup,” the crowd chanted Tuesday night.
Restrictions on women attending soccer matches were imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The games were deemed inappropriate for women to attend to prevent them from mixing with men and from seeing men wearing shorts. The ban was rigidly enforced after Iran’s defeat of the U.S. in the 1998 World Cup led to days of unofficial street parties.
“There is no legal basis for women to be banned from soccer stadiums,” said Asieh Amini, an Iranian women’s rights activist. The ban was not surprising, she added. “In Iran, you take one step forward, two steps back.”
Ahmadinejad tried to overturn the ban in April 2006. He was forced to reverse his decision in a month after pressure from senior clerics including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Iranian society is rife with rules enforcing segregation of men and women, such as single-sex swimming pools and beaches.
In 2006 then Iranian film “Offside” by Jafar Panahi that highlighted the absurdity of the exclusion of women was itself banned. The film tells the story of a girl who dresses up as a boy to get inside the stadium, but is arrested and is kept with other female impostors in detention.
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