Iran Bans Women From Watching Soccer In Cinemas, Restaurants... Mostly Everywhere

Despite falling Saturday to Argentina, the Iran national football team is still in contention for the World Cup. Many of their women fans, however, may not be able to watch them play. According to Iran Wire, Iran is banning women from watching the World Cup in public spaces. Iranian officials claim it's immoral for girls and women to participate in public sporting events, upholding a tradition of gender inequality that began during the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Although Iran is not a top-seeded contender in this year's World Cup, the national football team is beloved by its home country — especially its women. Football has garnered a strong, fervent following among Iranian women, and the nation's fledgling women's football league is continuing to flourish.

Cinema owners were reportedly set to host viewing parties of the matches, inviting large groups of both men and women to join. But earlier this month General Ahmadi Moghadam, commander of Iran’s Security Forces, banned World Cup viewings from being held at theaters with "mixed company."

Iran then took it a step further, barring coffee shop and restaurant owners from showing the football matches in their establishments as a way to further block women from watching the sport in public. "We have told our members that during the World Cup games they must either turn the TV off or switch to a channel which is not broadcasting the games," the president of the Coffee Shop Owners Union told Iranian Student's News Agency.

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The bans are a devastating blow to Iranian women, who are already barred from attending football events at stadiums. Iran banned women from attending public football matches in 1979, spurring protests over the years from sports-loving women rights activists.

Perhaps the most famous campaign to repeal the ban is the "White Headscarves" protest, which sparked in the 1990s. Iranian women donning white headscarves would stand outside of the football stadiums holding signs demanding equal rights. In 2006, women protesters were able to push through the stadium gates and watch the 2006 World Cup qualifying game between Iran and Qatar. That would be the last public football match Iranian women would watch.

Although Iranian women can currently attend other sporting events, that may not be the case much longer. Reports from Iranian news services claim Iranian women have been barred from entering a recent volleyball match between Iran and Italy. Iranian women were reportedly forced off the premises of Azadi Stadium on Friday as police heavily patrolled the area. However, foreign women were permitted to watch the game.

Just a week before Friday night's volleyball match, Iranian women protesters stood outside the gates of Azadi Stadium during a match between Iran and Brazil. According to French news source The Observers, many Iranian women were able to infiltrate the stadium by disguising themselves with Brazilian jerseys or asking Brazilian families to help usher them inside.