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People supporting Iranian women hold a banner at the stands during a match between Morocco and Iran at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 15, 2018.
Themba Hadebe/AP
Girls & Women

Iranian Women Finally Allowed to Watch Soccer in National Stadium

Consider this a scissor kick for international women’s rights.

On Tuesday, after a nearly 40-year ban on women watching male sporting events, Iranian women were finally permitted into Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch a live broadcast of Iran’s World Cup match against Spain.

Take Action: Sign this petition to #LeveltheLaw and empower girls and women around the world!

Having been approved by a local city council in advance, the mixed screening reportedly almost didn’t happen. Authorities tried to halt it at the last minute, citing “infrastructure problems,” the Washington Post reported.

But after a sit-in protest, all ticket holders — including women — were let in, reported ABC News. Iran lost 1-0 to Spain, but the event was deemed a win for women’s rights activists.

Iranian women have been banned from soccer games since 1981, when the country’s new religious government declared stadiums inappropriate places for women, ABC News reported.

Read More: Iranian Women Are Wearing Fake Beards to Sneak into Soccer Stadiums

There is no official law against it, but women are regularly turned away from games and sometimes arrested for attempting to enter stadiums.

As a result, female sports fans have increasingly resorted to covert viewings, entering stadiums disguised as men or traveling abroad to cheer for their home team.

Read More: In Iran, Women Were Banned From Attending a Soccer Game Because They're Women

A group called Open Stadiums has been actively campaigning against the ban for 13 years, and recently sent members to the World Cup in Russia. At a match in St. Petersburg last week, the women attracted international attention after unfurling banners protesting the ban inside the Krestovsky stadium.

It was the first time Iranian women made such a protest at a World Cup.

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