The Guardian: The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that women will be allowed to attend football matches in big stadiums for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Guardian
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that women will be allowed to attend football matches in big stadiums for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Under a decree reported on state television yesterday, the president has ordered the head of the country’s sports organisation to provide separate areas for women. “The best stands should be allocated to women and families in the stadiums in which national and important matches are being held,” Mr Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
The reason given by the president seems to have been intended to placate hardliners. “The presence of women and families in public places promotes chastity,” he said.
Women have occasionally scuffled with police when barred from entering stadiums, although now and then they have been allowed into smaller venues to watch sports such as basketball or volleyball. They have also tried to go inside venues disguised as men or have sneaked in with the supporters of foreign teams.
Last month security forces attacked dozens of female football fans who had bought tickets for a match at the Azadi stadium in Tehran.
They briefly unfurled protest banners and staged a demonstration outside before being forced into a bus and driven away. A few days later some 250 female spectators at a gymnastics world cup event in Tehran were escorted from an indoor stadium.
At a time when the Iran is facing international pressures over its nuclear programme, the president’s move may be an attempt to defuse one of the most divisive issues inside the country.
On Sunday he also seemed to back-track on a move to tighten up on women’s dress codes by saying his government would not use strongarm tactics.
Since Mr Ahmadinejad won the presidency last year with the backing of conservative clerics and Basij religious militias hardliners have been pressing for tighter controls on “immoral behaviour”.