Monday 23 September 2019

Calls for reform after Iranian female football fan facing prison term dies

Sahar Khodayari was stopped by police while trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man in contravention of laws banning women.

Supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal, hold flags of their favourite team (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal, hold flags of their favourite team (Vahid Salemi/AP)

By Nasser Karimi, Associated Press

Iranian footballers have called for reform after the death of a female fan who was facing a possible prison term for trying to enter a stadium.

Women are banned from football stadiums in the Islamic Republic, though they are allowed at some other sports, such as volleyball.

Sahar Khodayari died at a Tehran hospital on Monday, according to the Shafaghna news agency.

The 30-year-old was known as The Blue Girl on social media for the colours of her favourite Iranian team, Esteghlal.

We are all responsible Parvaneh Salahshouri

She set herself on fire last week, reportedly after learning she may have to go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in March to watch an Esteghlal match.

She was pretending to be a man and wore a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat when the police stopped her.

Ms Khodayari, who had graduated in computer sciences, then spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case.

No verdict had been delivered in her case so far.

Esteghlal issued a statement, offering condolences to Ms Khodayari’s family.

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi, who played 127 matches for Iran and has been a vocal advocate of ending the ban on women, urged Iranians in a tweet to boycott stadiums to protest against Ms Khodayari’s death.

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Iranian women cheer as they wave their country’s flag after authorities in a rare move allowed a select group of women into Azadi stadium to watch a friendly match between Iran and Bolivia, in Tehran, Iran (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iranian-Armenian footballer Andranik “Ando” Teymourian, the first Christian to be the captain of Iran’s national team and also an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran’s major football stadiums will be named after Ms Khodayari, “once, in the future”.

The minister of information and communications technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, described the death as a “bitter incident”.

Female politician Parvaneh Salahshouri called Ms Khodayari Iran’s Girl and tweeted: “We are all responsible.”

PA Media

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