But the ban restricting women from attending men’s sporting events is still officially intact.
For nearly 40 years, women in Iran have been barred from attending certain men’s sporting events, including soccer.
But on Wednesday, female spectators flowed into the Azadi Stadium in Tehran to watch Iran play Spain in the World Cup. It was the first time women were let into a stadium to watch a soccer match since 1979.
Before the match took place in Russia, local news agencies reported on Tuesday that Iranian women would be allowed to enter the Azadi stadium and watch a live broadcast of the game in Tehran — alongside crowds of male fans. But just hours before the game was set to take place, officials shut down the event, telling people not to come because of “infrastructure difficulties.”
That didn’t stop female or male soccer fans from showing up to the stadium.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 20, 2018
While police lined the building, fans clad in their team’s colors protested for about an hour before they were finally let in. When they entered, some women took selfies and blew horns in celebration.
To be clear, the ban against women attending men’s sporting events is still officially intact, and the consequences are pretty serious — women could be arrested, fined, or even imprisoned. And while the event was monumental, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hasn’t announced any official statement lifting the restriction.
The event was symbolic for Iran
Although Iran lost the game against Spain 1-0, that didn’t stop spectators from erupting in applause and celebration whenever their team played well. The official Twitter account of Iran’s football team tweeted a photo of an Iranian woman standing in the middle of a crowd, smiling and proudly holding up the country’s flag. The tweet, written in Persian, says, “Azadi Stadium, now!”
ورزشگاه آزادی، هماکنون! pic.twitter.com/02j1CiBPVq
— Team Melli IRAN (@TeamMelliIran) June 20, 2018
The event was a big deal for the country — one that still upholds many archaic and sexist laws regarding the treatment of women. Among other things, Iranian women are forced to seek the approval of a male guardian before marriage, and married women cannot travel outside the country without the approval of their husband.
But there’s a chance that this historic event could be the start of something new. And even though Iran’s team lost in the World Cup, this is definitely a win for Iranian women.