FIFA President Gianni Infantino has demanded that Iran end its ban on women attending football matches.
The 49-year-old Swiss said the governing body was “expecting positive developments” before Iran’s next home match in October.
He stopped short of threatening to suspend Iran, a move human rights groups have called for after the country failed to show any improvement on its stance towards female supporters.
The situation took a tragic twist earlier this month when Iranian fan Sahar Khodayari committed suicide by setting herself on fire.
Twenty-nine-year-old Khodayari was arrested in March after disguising herself as a man and trying to sneak into a match between Iranian team Esteghlal and Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
She was released pending a legal case but, upon returning to Ershad Courthouse to collect her phone on September 2, Khodayari learned that she could be tried by a revolutionary court and put in prison for six months.
Iranian news website Rokna reported that she set herself on fire in protest and later died from her injuries.
The Islamic Republic News Agency since reported that women would be allowed to watch Iran’s match against Cambodia, at the Azadi Stadium on October 10.
“I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation,” said Infantino.
“I contacted them several times in the recent past and so has the FIFA administration.
“We have a delegation of FIFA members in Iran at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing good news from them.
“Our position is clear and firm.
“Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran.
“We understand there are steps and processes that need to be taken before this is done in a proper and safe way, but now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments, starting in the next Iran home match in October.”
Minky Worden, a director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, has previously criticised FIFA for a “long delay” in bringing about change.
“Sahar’s tragic arrest, jailing, and suicide attempt underscore the need for Iran to end its ban on women attending sports matches – and the urgency for regulating bodies like FIFA to enforce its own human rights rules,” she said.
“FIFA urgently needs to uphold its own human rights rules, end gender discrimination, and punish violators.”
Infantino had previously given the Iranian Football Federation a July 15 deadline to allow women to buy tickets, which was missed.
The country did briefly relax its rules last year, allowing 100 women to watch Iran’s friendly with Bolivia.
Another 500 watched the Asian Champions League final match in Tehran between Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers the following month, which Infantino attended, but several women were then arrested in June after putting on fake beards and wigs to attend Iran’s friendly against Syria.
FIFA was also criticised when two fans were removed from the Women’s World Cup match between Canada and New Zealand in France on June 15, having entered the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble wearing T-shirts that called for Iranian women to be let into stadiums.
They later performed a U-turn, admitting that the message was social and not political and therefore not breaching any rules.
Women in Iran also struggle to attend volleyball games, with a blanket ban on attendance issued in 2012.
The rules became more moderate in June 2017, with Iranian authorities allowing only a limited number of pre-vetted women to attend games.
Iran is also facing international pressure in judo.
Yesterday, the International Judo Federation suspended the country over its anti-Israel stance.
It came amid allegations that Saeid Mollaei was placed under pressure at the World Championships to avoid facing an Israeli athlete.
Mollaei said threats had been made against himself and his family.
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