Open Letter: Distinguished Iranian Women Call on FIFA to Demand Iran End Its Ban on Women in Stadiums
June 22, 2018—In an open letter, prominent women of Iranian origin including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and legendary singer Googoosh have urged the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to demand that Iran end its discriminatory ban on women in stadiums.
“We call on FIFA to stand on its principles, hold Iran accountable for violating one of FIFA’s most fundamental statutes, and demand that the Islamic Republic permanently end the ban on female attendance,” said the signatories led by actress and board member of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Nazanin Boniadi.
Iran is the only country in the world that bans women from sports stadiums. Article 4 of FIFA’s Statutes states that discrimination of any kind “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
“Women in Iran have been braving arrest and harassment for decades simply for demanding their right to enjoy sports inside stadiums alongside men, and it is time for FIFA to show the same courage and integrity,” said Boniadi.
“The women in Iran have shown they won’t be silenced with empty gestures or words and will continue their peaceful struggle for equal rights until this discriminatory ban is permanently lifted,” she added.
For the first time in decades, Iranian officials allowed women to watch a televised screening of Iran’s World Cup match against Spain in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on June 20, 2018. But the pre-planned event was initially canceled and only re-launched after protests began outside the stadium, and there has been no indication that the ban has been permanently lifted, particularly for live matches.
“A woman’s right to attend events at stadiums is not the only rights violations women experience in Iran,” write the signatories, which include leading human rights lawyers, diplomats, academics and cultural figures. “It is this mentality that also prevents Iranian women from traveling alone or from having equal weight in a court of law.”
“By challenging this discriminatory behavior, one is challenging this mentality in all its applications,” they add.
Read the full letter below.
FIFA: Call on Iran to End Its Discriminatory Ban on Women in Stadiums
We the undersigned Iranian women note that Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has for too long closed its eyes to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s banning of female attendance at stadiums.
This ban represents a fundamental violation of FIFA’s core principles. Article 4 of FIFA’s Statutes states that discrimination of any kind “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
FIFA’s policies—and previous statements against the ban—ring hollow given Iran’s continued refusal to end the ban without consequence.
For the first time since 1980, after mounting domestic and international protests against the ban and despite continued obstacles from security forces, Iranian women were allowed into Azadi Stadium in Tehran on June 20 to watch a televised version of Iran’s World Cup match against Spain. But there has been no indication that the ban has been permanently lifted, particularly for live matches. The image of women and men standing shoulder to shoulder—safe and exuberant—to watch this match on the big screen demonstrates clearer than anything else the utter falseness of any reasoning behind the ban.
We call on FIFA to stand on its principles, hold Iran accountable for violating one of FIFA’s most fundamental statutes, and demand that the Islamic Republic permanently end the ban on female attendance.
For those who think this is not a matter of importance to Iranian women, they should become aware of the efforts of so many women who try to enter stadiums in Iran by pretending to be men—wearing wigs, fake facial hair and male clothing. Every year several women get arrested or expelled from stadiums when security forces identify them as women disguised as men. They should also observe the hundreds of Iranian women who have travelled to Russia to watch the World Cup. Football is a national passion in Iran. The images of Iranian men and women standing together in Russia—as well as the many thousands of Iranian men and women in other countries around the world standing together to watch and cheer on their national team—have gone viral on social media in Iran.
The disconnect between the people of Iran and the government of Iran on this issue is glaring: Iran’s is a celebratory culture; even as the people face serious economic and political strains, they are jubilant as they watch their team. While Iranians post comments on social media applauding these images, exulting in the excitement of the games and posting expressions of happiness and good cheer (“I wish I was there! Have fun for me!”), their government continues its sullen and ill-tempered refusal to respect the will of its citizens or the demands of the international community.
The authorities in Iran justify their discriminatory policy by claiming that the coarse climate of the sports stadiums is not a suitable place for women. But this hasn’t been a problem for women anywhere else in the word. Indeed, Iran is the only country in the world that bans women from attending events at its sports arenas. And there are many devout Muslim-majority countries in the world, in which religion is a central and defining pillar of life, that do not ban women from public stadiums—or use Sharia law to justify this discriminatory policy.
A woman’s right to attend events at stadiums is not the only rights violation women experience in Iran. Yet it is the same mentality that also prevents Iranian women from traveling alone or from having equal weight in a court of law. By challenging this discriminatory behavior, one is challenging this mentality in all its applications.
When lawmakers in Iran take away a woman’s right to watch and cheer her national team, they are taking away the right of a family to celebrate together. A father and son can watch and celebrate, but a mother and daughter cannot. The fracturing of family unity is one of the oldest forms of authoritarian control. Its deep injustice remains undiminished.
As Iranian women, we support our national team, but we do not forget those who cannot attend matches or have gone to jail trying to enter the stadiums in Iran.
We salute our team, and we salute all brave women and men who stand for equality despite grave personal risk. We ask FIFA to demonstrate the same integrity and stand behind its principles. We ask FIFA to demand that Iran permanently end the ban on female attendance at sports stadiums.
Shohreh Aghdashloo – Academy Award-nominated actress (House of Sand and Fog, Star Trek: Beyond)
Banafsheh Akhlaghi – Human rights lawyer, CHRI board member
Goli Ameri – Diplomat, businesswoman
Nina Ansary, Ph.D. – Historian, author, CHRI board member
Nazanin Boniadi – Actress (Homeland, Counterpart, upcoming Hotel Mumbai), activist, CHRI board member
Shirin Ebadi – Nobel Peace Laureate, human rights lawyer
Googoosh – Legendary Iranian singer
Mehrangiz Kar – Human rights lawyer, author
Shappi Khorsandi – Comedian, author
Sharon Nazarian – Academic, philanthropist
Shirin Neshat – Visual artist, film director
Gissou Nia – Human rights lawyer
Shahrnush Parsipur – Author
Nasim Pedrad – Actress, writer (Saturday Night Live, New Girl, upcoming Aladdin)
Homa Sarshar – Author, journalist
Nayereh Tohidi, Ph.D. – Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at CSUN
Sheila Vand – Actress (Argo, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)
Necar Zadegan – Actress (24, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce)