Iranian women wear fake beards to defy stadium ban and attend football match 

Iran has long barred women from attending male football matches and other sporting events, partly in the belief that women should not hear swearing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 3:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 9:25pm

Female football fans who donned fake beards and wigs to attend a major match in Iran in defiance of a ban on women spectators were hailed as fearless by activists on Monday.

Photographs and video of the fans sitting in Azadi Stadium in Tehran disguised as men as they watched their team Persepolis crowned champions on Friday have gone viral on social media.

The Islamic Republic has long barred women from attending male soccer matches and other sporting events, based at least partly on the belief that women should not hear fans swear.

“I am very proud of them and impressed that they can be so fearless, because it is a huge risk that they do that,” Melody Safavi, an Iranian singer and women’s rights activist, said by telephone from New York.

Safavi is in the Iranian reggae band Abjeez, whose song “Stadium” calls on Iranian men to support women in their fight to be allowed into sports venues. She lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.

“They are trying to break a lot of lines and taboos,” said Shadi Amin, an Iranian women’s and LGBT rights activist.

“For other people it is a small step, but for us it is a big step, because the cost of this action is not small. They risk being arrested,” she said by phone from London.

The Iranian group OpenStadiums, which is campaigning for the right of women to attend sporting events in the Islamic Republic, said that some women were arrested near Azadi stadium in March during the Esteghlal-Persepolis match.

Saudi Arabia last year overturned a ban on women watching sporting events, one of a series of reforms in that deeply conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom.