Tehran: Iran has once again denied women entry to a football stadium to watch an international match, leaving hundreds of ticketed fans locked out, Iranian media said.
The World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on Tuesday night, won 2-0 by Iran, was played at the Imam Reza stadium in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
“About 2,000 Iranian women, who had bought tickets for the Iran-Lebanon match, were present in the perimeter of Imam Reza stadium, but could not enter the stadium,” ISNA news agency said.
“For this match, 12,500 tickets were sold, of which 2,000 were for women,” it added.
Mohsen Davari, governor of Mashhad, told IRIB state television: “I apologise that many people couldn’t enter the stadium...
“Unfortunately, a large number of people outside the stadium were deprived of watching the game.”
In the face of the controversy, President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday ordered the interior ministry to look into the incident.
In January, women were allowed to attend an international for the first time in almost three years, for a World Cup qualifier against Iraq.
The Islamic republic has generally barred female spectators from football and other sports stadiums since it was established in 1979.
Clerics, who play a major role in decision-making, argue women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.
But world football’s governing body FIFA ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers to be determined according to demand for tickets.
The FIFA directive, threatening Iran’s suspension from competitions, came after a fan, Sahar Khodayari, died having set herself on fire in fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match in disguise.
She had reportedly been detained in 2018 as she tried to enter a stadium dressed as a male.
Her death sparked an outcry, resulting in calls for Iran to be banned and its matches boycotted.
FIFA had been pushing for years for Iran to open its stadiums to women, but Tehran had until 2019 only allowed a limited number of women to attend matches on rare occasions.