Middle East

Iran criticised for detaining 35 women at football match

Iranian fans celebrate their team's win. Source: AAP

Iran detained the women for trying to enter a football stadium also attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the country’s capital of Tehran.

The 35 Iranian women detained at the football match have received an outpouring of support on social media.

Iran has banned women from attending football games since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in attendance at the Thursday game between Tehran teams Esteqlal and Persepolis, where the women were held, the BBC reported.

BBC Middle East editor Alan Johnston wrote the female football fans wanted to attract the attention of the most powerful man in world football in an article for the British public broadcaster.

"They wanted to attract Mr Infantino's attention to the ban on women attending games," he wrote. 

Iran said the women were not arrested but rather held temporarily and would be released after the match, the BBC reported.

Hillel Neuer, who is United Nations Watch executive director, criticised Iran's ban on females attending matches, citing FIFA's own anti-discrimination policies in a tweet: "Your chief Gianni Infantino was at Tehran match today... Why are you silent?"

Meanwhile, BBC reporter Vicki Sparks tweeted her support for the detained women: "As a woman who's loved going to football matches ever since I was a little girl, this breaks my heart."

An earlier live broadcast of an interview between Mr Infantino and Iran's Sport Minister Masoud Soltanifar was taken off the air as a journalist asked the pair about the ban on female football fans.

In the news conference, Mr Infantino had told reporters political issues between countries and around the world should not have an impact on football.

"It's very clear that politics should stay out of football and football should stay out of politics," he said.  

Mr Infantino was speaking about a two-year dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to the BBC.

Forbes columnist Heshmat Alavi tweeted the broadcast cut-off suddenly.

It follows Saudi Arabia announcing it would lift a ban on women entering three sports stadiums in the country from 2018 in October last year. 

The kingdom had long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.  

Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority tweeted the sports stadiums would allow families to attend football matches.

"Starting the preparation of three stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman to be ready to accommodate families from early 2018," the Saudi sports body said on Twitter.

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