Iran has again denied women entry to a football stadium to watch an international match, leaving hundreds of fans with tickets locked out, Iranian media reported on Wednesday.
Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon, won 2-0 by Iran, was played at Imam Reza Stadium in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
“About 2,000 Iranian women, who had bought tickets for the Iran-Lebanon match, were present in the perimeter of the Imam Reza stadium, but were unable to enter the stadium,” the Isna news agency said.
Iran team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh has joined in the criticism of the lockdown.
“I don’t think anything would have happened if the women had come to the stadium, and that could promote our culture,” he said, as quoted by public broadcaster IRIB.
Mohsen Davari, Governor of Mashhad, told IRIB: “I’m sorry that a lot of people couldn’t get into the stadium…”
“Unfortunately a large number of people outside the stadium were deprived of watching the game.”
Faced with the controversy, President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the incident.
For his part, the Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri declared on the radio that “if the conditions allowed the sale of tickets to women, a suitable place had to be found for them”.
The case was “not acceptable…and shows poor management,” he said.
In January, women were allowed to attend an international match for the first time in nearly three years, for a World Cup qualifier against Iraq.
The Islamic republic has generally banned female spectators from soccer and other sports stadiums since its inception in 1979.
The clerics, who play a major role in decision-making, argue that women should be protected from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-dressed men.
But world football’s governing body FIFA ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women’s access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers to be determined based on ticket demand.
FIFA’s directive threatening to suspend Iran from competitions came after fan Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire for fear of being jailed after trying to attend a disguised game.
She was reportedly arrested in 2018 when she tried to enter a stadium dressed as a man.
His death sparked an outcry, prompting calls for Iran to be banned and a boycott of its matches.
FIFA had been pushing for years for Iran to open its stadiums to women, but Tehran had until 2019 only allowed a limited number of women to attend matches on rare occasions.