TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian female soccer fan has died after setting herself on fire outside a court after learning she may have to serve a six-month sentence for trying to enter a soccer stadium, a semi-official news agency reported Tuesday.
The tragic death immediately drew an outcry among some soccer stars and known figures in Iran, where women are banned from soccer stadiums, though they are allowed at some other sports, such as volleyball.
Sahar Khodayari died at a Tehran hospital on Monday, according to the Shafaghna news agency. The 30-year-old was known as the “Blue Girl” on social media for the colors of her favorite Iranian soccer team, Esteghlal.
She set herself on fire last week, reportedly after learning she may have to go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in March to watch an Esteghlal match. She was pretending to be a man and wore a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat when the police stopped her.
Hey @FIFAcom a girl who couldn't enter an #Iranian stadium to watch #soccer set herself on fire & died today. Shouldn't you disqualify any nation that exercises #genderapartheid? Hey male fans: Shouldn't you stop going to stadiums in solidarity with your sisters & wives? #دخترآبی pic.twitter.com/ia2MeUiY9N
— Roya Hakakian (@RoyaTheWriter) September 10, 2019
Khodayari, who had graduated in computer sciences, then spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case. No verdict had been delivered in her case so far.
Esteghlal issued a statement, offering condolences to Khodayari’s family.
Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi — who played 127 matches for Iran and has been a vocal advocate of ending the ban on women — urged Iranians in a tweet to boycott soccer stadiums to protest Khodayari’s death.
Iranian-Armenian soccer player Andranik “Ando” Teymourian, the first Christian to be the captain of Iran’s national squad and also an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran’s major soccer stadiums will be named after Khodayari, “once, in the future.”
The minister of information and communications technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, described the death as a “bitter incident.” Female lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri called Khodayari “Iran’s Girl” and tweeted: “We are all responsible.”