A group of female soccer fans from Iran last week sneaked into a stadium dressed as men to watch a championship game, in defiance of the Islamic Republic’s strict religious law.
The women wore men’s clothes, donned fake wigs and beards to slip past security guards at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch their favorite team be crowned national champions.
Images of the young women watching Persepolis beat Sepidrood Rasht 3-0 on Friday from deep in the stands surrounded by men went viral on social media and earned praise from activists.
Women have been barred from attending soccer games, and some other sports events since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with officials saying they must be protected from the “vulgar atmosphere.”
It was not immediately clear if the women were arrested.
New York-based Iranian women’s rights activist Melody Safavi praised the women for attending the game.
“I am very proud of them and impressed that they can be so fearless, because it is a huge risk that they do that,” she told Reuters in an interview.
The Iran-based OpenStadiums, a group dedicated to advancing women in sports, also tweeted support for the women, expressing hope they could one day “enter stadiums under their own identity.”
Last month, 35 women were detained for trying to sneak into Azadi to watch a Persepolis-Esteqlal game, where FIFA president Gianni Infantino was present.
Infantino afterwards said he received assurances from authorities that women would soon have access to soccer stadiums.
“We will see but I hope this experience which I made only yesterday afternoon can maybe help many, many women around the world,” he said referring to the March 1 incident.
Iran has disregarded previous pleas from soccer’s international governing body to open its stadiums to women. Infantino’s predecessor, Sepp Blatter, used stronger language in 2015 to express frustration at the lack of progress. Blatter said he was given the impression in 2013 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the “intolerable situation could change over the medium term.”
However the lack of progress on the issue two years later led to Blatter publishing a statement on FIFA’s website, saying that the status quo should not continue, and calling on the Iranian authorities to “open the nation’s football stadiums to women.”