Human Rights Organization Amnesty International on Tuesday, September 10, said an Iranian woman, Sahar Khodayari, who was denied entry to the football stadium in Tehran died after setting herself on fire.
The 29-year-old Khodayari earlier faced charges of “appearing in public without a hijab” when she attempted to enter the stadium “dressed as a man” in March.
“She was stopped from entering when the stadium’s security guards discovered she was a woman,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Khodayari, had appeared in a Tehran court last week, where the case was adjourned. She then poured gasoline on herself and lit herself on fire fearing the worst possible verdict.
“What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heartbreaking. Her only ‘crime’ was being a woman in a country where women face discrimination that is entrenched in law and plays out in the most horrific ways imaginable in every area of their lives, even sports,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, said in an official statement.
“To our knowledge, Iran is the only country in the world that stops and punishes women seeking to enter football stadiums,” he added.
Iran-based women’s advocacy group, OpenStadiums, mourned Sahar’s death.
“If humiliation, detention and prison wasn’t enough for #FIFA to take action now one of us burnt herself to show Iranian women want to watch football too,” the group wrote on Twitter, Tuesday.
Italian football club AS Roma tweeted to show grief over the death of Khodayari.
#ASRoma is yellow & red but today our heart bleeds blue for Sahar Khodayari. The beautiful game is meant to unite us, not divide us – that’s why we set up @ASRoma_Persian last year. Now it’s time for everyone in Iran to be allowed to enjoy football matches together. RIP #BlueGirl pic.twitter.com/twB6KDvkJS— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 10, 2019
Ever since the incident, Khodayari got dubbed as the “Blue Girl” on social media after the colours of her favourite Iranian soccer team, Esteghlal.
The human rights organisation and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have both called upon FIFA to look into the matter and end the ban imposed on women in the country.
“Sahar’s tragic arrest, jailing, and suicide attempt underscore the need for Iran to end its ban on women attending sports matches — and the urgency for regulating bodies like FIFA to enforce its own human rights rules,” HRW said in a statement before the death of Khodayari.
FIFA also said: “We are aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it. FIFA convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran.”
In June, FIFA sent a letter to the Iranian Football Federation requesting a timeline that would allow women to be able to buy tickets for World Cup qualifiers, Reuters reported.
In response, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth for Developing Women Sports and Managing Director of the Girls’ Physical Education, Mahin Farhadi-Zad, said the country has no specific deadline but is working on the “necessary infrastructure” to allow women into stadiums, state-owned IRNA reported in July.
After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women are not allowed to watch football matches in Iran without restrictions on other sports like volleyball.