Middle East

Iranian women wear fake beards to sneak into male-only football match

Iranian women have disguised themselves in fake beards and wigs to defy a male-only stadium ban. Source: Instagram/mohadeseh.mahdavifar

Fearless women have disguised themselves as men to sneak into a major soccer match in Iran.

A group of female football fans donned fake beards and wigs to sneak into a major soccer match in Iran in defiance of a ban on female spectators.

Photos and video of the fans sitting in Tehran's Azadi Stadium disguised as men on Friday have gone viral on social media.

They were watching their team Persepolis crowned champions.

The Islamic Republic has long banned women from attending men's football matches and other sports fixtures, based at least partly on the theory that women should not hear fans swear.

In 2014, a British-Iranian woman was jailed for a year after trying to attend a men's volleyball match. In March this year, 35 women were detained for trying to attend a match at the same stadium.

"I am very proud of them and impressed that they can be so fearless because it is a huge risk that they do that," Melody Safavi, Iranian women's rights activist and singer told Reuters.

Safavi is in the Iranian reggae band Abjeez, whose song Stadium calls on Iranian men to support women in their fight to be allowed into sports fixtures. She lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.

"They are trying to break a lot of lines and taboos," said Shadi Amin, an Iranian women's and LGBTIQ+ rights activist.

"For other people, it is a small step, but for us, it is a big step, because the cost of this action is not small. They risk being arrested," she said.

The Iranian group OpenStadiums, which is campaigning for the right of women to attend sports fixtures in the Islamic Republic, said that some women were arrested near Azadi stadium in March during the Esteghlal-Persepolis match.

Saudi Arabia last year overturned a ban on women watching sporting events, one of a series of reforms in the deeply conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom.

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