Iran, Saudi women enjoy World Cup freedom

The World Cup could be the springboard for the furthering of women's rights in ultra-conservative countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Russia is serving as a land of opportunity for Iranian and Saudi Arabian women, who are taking advantage of the World Cup to exercise freedoms they do not entirely enjoy back home.

At Iran's World Cup opener against Morocco in St Petersburg, some Iranian women unveiled a banner reading "NoBan4Women" and others put up one saying "Support Iranian women to be able to visit stadiums."

Those women would have been detained if they had done the same thing back home.

Women from Iran's political arch-enemy Saudi Arabia are also drawing attention in Russia - mainly because of their wearing of headscarves and veils in their team's World Cup opener against Russia.

That look provided a stark contrast to the liberally-clad Russian female fans enjoying the strong performance of the hosts, who won 5-0.

There will definitely be more pictures of women in headscarves at Saudi Arabia's second Group A match against Uruguay in Rostov on Wednesday, and there also could be more protests by the Iranians the same day in Kazan in Iran's match against Spain.

Women in Iran have been banned from entering stadiums since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

According to the ultra-conservative clerics, women should not witness frenetic male fans.

But attitudes are changing.

"Women should not be penalised if men say vulgar things in stadiums," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani and his ministry of sports - as well as the majority of Iranians - are against the stadium ban. The compromise proposal is outfitting stadiums with family stands, but clerics reject that idea as well.

Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the year started allowing women in stadiums, thereby increasing the pressure on Iran.

Meanwhile, the courage of the Iranian women in Russia has actually rubbed off a bit on females in Iran.

Many of them throughout the country protested against state regulations after Iran's last second 1-0 victory over Morocco - namely by celebrating.

Many women not only took off their headscarves but were even dancing merrily in celebrations with men well into the early hours.

Both of those actions are strictly forbidden in Iran.

Source: AAP

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