An Iranian female football fan, under the alias Sahar, has burnt herself to death after receiving a jail sentence of six months for trying to enter a football match in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
This tragic death follows a deadline given by FIFA of August 31st to allow Iranian women to enter football stadiums to watch matches.
Since 1981, women in Iran have been banned from watching football in stadiums, leading some to go to the lengths of dressing up as men, disguising themselves in beards to watch football.
Sahar’s sister told an Iranian outlet that Sahar was arrested in front of the Tehran stadium and taken to Qarchak prison and later released on bail. She was reported to have been bipolar, which became progressively worse as she was locked away. On the day Sahar attempted suicide she was said to have learnt that she’d be spending six months in jail.
Although the ban is not written in law, it is heavily enforced by Iranian authorities and directly breaks FIFA’s regulation, which says discrimination against women “is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
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Following FIFA pressure, Iran’s sporting officials have said that they will allow women to the next national game at the Azadi Stadium – but this comes too late as Sahar’s suicide could have been prevented.
Philip Luther from Amnesty International said: “Sahar’s death shows Iran’s appalling contempt for women’s rights. Her death must not be in vain. It must spur change in Iran if further tragedies are to be avoided in the future.”
On a day, we are talking about World Suicide prevention it is sad to learn that this has happened in Iran.
With the growth of women’s football globally, it is clear that a lot more needs to be done to support women around the world who do not have the same rights we do when it comes to sports.
The conversation must be louder, progressive, and life-changing for women who need it globally.