A women’s rights group has called on FIFA to ban Iran from the World Cup, citing continual mistreatment of women in the country and specifically the “locking out” of Iranian women from soccer and sports in general. The group, known as Open Stadiums, sent an open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino with the request, citing the denial of women’s ‘basic liberties’ in Iran.
Women were first allowed to attend a domestic football match in Iran in 1979, but that trend hasn’t endured and gross inequalities which the letter is intended to bring attention to remain. According to the letter, women “have been banned from enjoying sports, watching games in stadiums, and cheering for our favourite football teams”.
The letter references Infantino’s previous commitment to resolving such violations of human rights, but claims that nothing has changed in spite of those commitments.
Open Stadiums specifically referenced an incident in March of this year in which, according to the letter, women were tear-gassed and pepper sprayed by police forces after attending a match between Iran and Lebanon which they had previously been told they were allowed to attend. It also comes in the wake of the death of MahsaAmini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody in September in an incident which resulted in protests across the country.
The group goes on to request the immediate expulsion of Iran from the World Cup, asking “Why would FIFA give the Iranian state and its representatives a global stage, while it not only refuses to respect basic human rights and dignities, but is currently torturing and killing its own people? Where are the principles of FIFA’s statutes in this regard?”
They also reference concerns that there will be a “heavy presence of the Islamic Republic’s state agents” at the tournament “in order to keep Iranian (female) fans and citizens in check”. Open Stadiums claims that this could potentially have dangerous consequences for Iranians who travel to Qatar, as well as women’s rights activists and female football fans more generally after the tournament.
Iranian players have reportedly been prohibited from demonstrating solidarity with this movement. Specifically, they claim that “Striker Sardar Azmoun confirmed in an Instagram post that Iranian national team players are under threat of expulsion from the World Cup squad if they speak out. Sardar’s sympathetic post to his fellow Iranian citizens and against the authorities has quickly been deleted.”
Who are Open Stadiums?
Open Stadiums are a “movement of Iranian women seeking to end discrimination and let women attend stadiums”. They post regularly about historical inequalities which women in Iran have had to endure with regards to attending sporting events, as well as similar recent incidents. They posted the open letter to Infantino on the 30th of September.
About the World Cup
The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar on the 20th of November, and will run over the course of 29 days. For the last time, 32 teams will compete (that number will increase to 48 in 2026), with Iran set to compete in Group B alongside England, the United States of America, and Wales.
This will be the sixth time that the nation has appeared at the event, and the third in succession. In those five previous tournaments, they have never advanced past the Group Stage and have won just two games. This year, they are not expected to change that trend; they are viewed as virtually no chance to win the World Cup, sit comfortably behind their three Group B opponents as favourites to win the group, and are a $3.65 chance to advance according to BlueBet.
Iran’s first game is scheduled to take place on the 21st of November at 4.00pm local time at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan against England.