Women football fans face Iran ban
Euro 2012 fever has been gripping/boring (delete as appropriate) the continent for nigh on a week now, with daily matches taking place in Poland and the Ukraine.
And despite the title of the competition, you don’t actually have to be European to enjoy it. In Iran however, it would seem you do have to be a man.
Until this week, showing football in movie theatres was common practice in Iran, with crowds (of men and women) gathering to indulge their love for the beautiful game on the big screen.
This practice came about largely due to a long-standing ban that prevents women attending stadiums for live football matches because the games are played by men wearing shorts.
Women have not been allowed to attend men’s football matches since 1996.
The large screen broadcasts were seen to be a relaxing of this rule as whole families gathered to watch the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.
But gender bias has again reinstated itself in a nation already controversial for its treatment of women – a nation where, ironically, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said women are highly respected.
The women of Iran have now been banned from public cinema screenings of Euro 2012 football games because, says Bahman Kargar, Iran’s deputy police commander in charge of social affairs, an ‘inappropriate’ environment could cause men to become rowdy, and behave in a manner which was inappropriate for women to witness.
He said ‘It is an inappropriate situation when men and women watch football in (movie) theatres together.
‘Men, while watching football, get excited and sometimes utter vulgar curses or tell dirty jokes. It is not within the dignity of women to watch football with men. Women should thank the police [for the ban]‘.
A multi-screen cinema in the capital city of Tehran was sealed off earlier this week after rumours spread that the theatre had defied the ban and was selling tickets to Euro 2012 screenings to women.
Segregation of the sexes is favoured by Iran’s hardline Islamic forces, who say that the social integration of unrelated men and women is corrupting.
Iranian society is rife with these rules – in the Islamic republic, women have to use single sex swimming pools, beaches and parks. In conditions reminiscent of racial segregation in 40s and 50s America, women can only travel in the back of public buses, and have to use women-only taxis or tube carriages.
Education is also subject to segregation, with schools being totally sex-separate, with some universities following suit.
It’s a particular blow for those women who were hoping that the AFC under 16s international championship in Tehran in October this year would signal a return to the terraces.
Tthe AFC has said that as far as it is concerned, ‘there should be no sex discrimination regarding the presence of men and women at stadiums.’
Head of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI), Ali Kafshian, has said they will respect the regulations.
But the conservative Islamists are sharply against this.
Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani said ‘Women looking at a man’s body, even if not for the sake of gratification, is inappropriate. Furthermore, Islam insists that men and women should not mix.’.
So it remains to be seen whether women will be allowed on to the terraces in October.
Meanwhile, Euro 2012 continues apace. The fact that it is unwatched by Iranian women may mean little to the players and organisers, but it’s another sad erosion of the rights of women in a country that seems to have forgotten that they hold a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women.