ANKARA (Reuters) - Iranian women were allowed to watch their national team playing in their World Cup match against Portugal on a big screen in a Tehran stadium on Monday, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported, despite a ban backed by hardliners.
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been barred from attending male soccer matches, based partly on the idea that they should be shielded from hearing male fans swearing and cursing.
“Those individuals and families who have bought tickets, can attend the stadium to watch the World Cup game live,” ISNA quoted a statement published by Tehran’s governor office.
Iran’s pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly criticized the ban but has failed to get it removed because of resistance from powerful hardliners in the clerical and security establishment.
It is only the second time in almost 40 years that Iranian women have been able to watch football in Tehran’s Azadi stadium, Iran’s biggest with 120,000 seats.
The stadium’s doors were opened for the first time since 1979 to women fans on June 20 to watch Iran’s World Cup match against Spain, when hundreds of women attended.
But Iran’s hardline general prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri on Sunday criticised the move, Iranian media reported, saying he was “ashamed” of what had happened in the stadium.
“Some women removed their head scarves and started to sing and dance ... this is disrespect to our martyrs and betrayal of the revolution,” he said. “They are wrong if they think that they can implement their satanic policies.”
Videos and pictures posted on social media showed women fans singing and waving Iran’s flag at the stadium.
“I am so delighted to be here. It is like a dream come true,” said student Mona Hosseini, 17, who went to the stadium with her family.
Despite various campaigns launched by women in the recent years, dozens of women fans have been arrested in Iran for trying to enter the stadium to watch men’s games.
The officials did not say whether the ban would be permanently lifted.
“I love football. I love watching it at the stadium. I hope our officials lift the ban forever,” Nazanin Sepehrian, 23, told Reuters by phone.
“I watched the previous World Cup match against Spain at the Azadi stadium as well. It was so much fun,” she said.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Richard Balmforth