Iranian Women Allowed in Azadi Stadium to Watch Televised 2018 World Cup Match

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJune 20, 2018

An Iranian supporter poses with the national flag ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 20, 2018. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SAEED KHAN/Getty Images

Iranian women were allowed into Tehran's Azadi Stadium for the first time in 37 years on Wednesday to watch Iran's FIFA 2018 World Cup clash against Spain on television. 

Women are not allowed to enter stadiums in Iran, but permission was given for female fans to support their national team's efforts in Russia, per Open Stadiums:

OpenStadiums @openStadiums

Women/families finally entered to Azadi stadium after 37 years of ban, to watch #IRNESP on screen. https://t.co/oSBXHMWI8h

Journalist Sobhan Hassanvand showed the scene at the Azadi Stadium:

Sobhan Hassanvand @Hassanvand

UNPRECEDENTED: Iranian women at Azadi stadium to watch (televised) #IRNESP at #worldcup https://t.co/oKnRmFSURx

The supporters still faced some difficulties entering the stadium as police initially blocked the event from taking place. However, Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli then intervened to ensure it went ahead, per the BBC's Hadi Nili:

Hadi Nili @HadiNili

rare moment for Iranian women to be allowed into this big stadium, after the Interior Minister stepped in & ordered the police to get along. tho many alrdy left the evnt or decided to not go there as police was not allowing ppl over the last couple of hrs. https://t.co/HmOA1iBPnP

The Twitter account of Iran's national team shared an image of the scene at the stadium:

Team Melli IRAN @TeamMelliIran

ورزشگاه آزادی، هم‌اکنون! https://t.co/02j1CiBPVq

The move follows pressure from Iranian women who have used the World Cup to protest against their ban. Banners were unfurled during Iran's opening World Cup game against Morocco, per Open Stadiums:

OpenStadiums @openStadiums

Iran's first match almost done we saw lots of support from fans toward Iranian women who wants to break the stadiums ban. #زنان_ورزشگاه #NoBan4Women https://t.co/qtkxTER7Dq

In May 2018, five Iranian women disguised themselves as men to gain entry to a match between Persepolis and Sepidrood Rasht, as reported by the Daily Sabah (h/t Thomas Bristow of the Daily Mirror).

Iranian women have also travelled to the World Cup in Russia in numbers to see their team take on Spain at the Kazan Arena. Sports writer Ian Herbert said there were as many women in Kazan as men:

ian herbert @ianherbs

As many Iranian women as men here in Kazan for #IRNESP tonight. Women are banned from watching men’s games in Iran. Iran’s ‘concession’ tonight is to allow women into stadiums to watch big screen coverage #IRN @openStadiums https://t.co/UqFNltVdez

Iran went into the World Cup with few expectations but pulled off a shock in their opening game as they beat Morocco 1-0.

They also gave a good account of themselves against Spain who are one of the favourites to win the tournament. Spain went ahead through Diego Costa, but Iran thought they'd equalised through Saeid Ezatolahi only to see the goal ruled out for offside by VAR.

It's a historic moment for Iran although it remains to be seen if there will be a permanent change and women will be allowed to enter stadiums to watch live sporting events going forward.