When the option for women’s tickets to see Iran’s World Cup football team play a match appeared on a ticketing website, some women jumped at the opportunity.

But when they came to the doors of Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Tuesday, tickets in hand, the women were denied entrance.

“[The police officers] did not let us in the stadium, took pictures and videos of us and threatened to arrest us. They then collected our tickets and took them away,” one woman tweeted.

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In Iran, women are banned from attending men’s sporting matches, in part because politicians believe women should not hear men curse or swear.

Women in Iran face other sexist laws, including the law that requires a woman to receive her husband’s permission before she is allowed to travel abroad.

Since Iran’s Islamic revolution established conservative rule in 1979, women were gradually prevented from attending sports events; first they were not allowed to attend football matches, and years later the ban was expanded to volleyball matches, as well.

In 2015, police detained a British-Iranian woman for four months because she attempted to watch a men's volleyball match.

But there has been pushback in recent years to change these laws. Back in 2006, the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to convince politicians to lift the ban, but he faced severe criticism for it.

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The football federation said the tickets were sold by mistake and promised to refund the women who bought tickets. Some women, however, decided they would still go to the stadium to try to get in.

Those who were denied entrance gathered outside the stadium in protest. It has not been reported how many women were prevented from entering the stadium. Some women were able to get through the gates by showing the officers their passports.

Female Members of Parliament are sometimes granted permission to attend the matches when they are invited to attend the games. But some are not satisfied with this special exception.

One female MP, Parveaneh Salashuri, told a local news agency that she had turned down the invitation to attend because of the selective and sexist law.

"As long as girls in this country are forced to wear men's clothes and face thousands of problems to enter stadiums and watch matches, I — as a representative of the people — do not like to go to a stadium with a special permit," female MP, Parveaneh Salashuri, told Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

Another female MP, Tayebeh Siavoshi, took a different approach. She made a formal request to attend the match.

“Nobody invited me to attend the match. I made a request to go. Taking a passive approach and refusing to attend will not work,” she tweeted.

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Support appears to be growing to lift the ban on women attending sporting events. One woman said that police officers guarding the entrance were “sad” that the women were not allowed in and told her to carry a Syrian flag in order to sneak through.

“It’s a pity that Iranian women are absent when we see women from Syria and other countries inside,” an Iranian state TV commentator said before kickoff.


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By Tess Sohngen