Iranian women allowed to attend soccer game for 1st time in decades

Catherine Garcia

For the first time since 1981, Iranian women on Thursday were able to attend a FIFA soccer match, watching as Iran defeated Cambodia 14-0 in a 2022 World Cup qualifying game.

Thousands of women attended the match at Tehran's Azadi Stadium, sitting in a section separate from men and watched over by 150 female security officers. In 1981, hardline conservatives proposed banning women from attending most sporting events, and before Thursday, Iran was the last country to prohibit women from going to soccer games. Facing pressure from FIFA, which threatened banning Iran from participating in international matches if the country didn't let women attend games, the government relented, setting aside 4,000 tickets for women.

Amnesty International isn't impressed, saying this is merely a "cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image." Iranian women, however, are thrilled, after years of fighting for the opportunity to watch a live match. Zahra Pashaei, a 29-year-old nurse, had only watched games on television, and told The Associated Press attendees were "so happy that finally we got the chance to go to the stadium. At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this."