Visually it was really powerful. Determined women, some with scarfs reminiscent of Iran's flag, encouraged their national team to fight Cambodia. The photos were beautiful, almost advertising. And a strong story was added to them. For the first time in 40 years of bans, women could come to watch a football match. They have been asking for it for a long time, and finally succeeded.
Of course, this story has several levels, and the deeper you dive into it, the more the photos will look like a clever propaganda for the Iranian regime, even if you really want those women to be able to experience their fans live.
Although the Iranian Government presents the whole event as an internal decision of the regime through its Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ali Rabiei, it is not true. It was a decision that was enforced, very tragically. The change in the 40-year-old ban, which has no backing in Iranian legislation – it is merely a "tradition" – was triggered by the self-immolation of Sahar Chodajári, also known as the "blue girl" according to the colors of her favorite team.
A 29-year-old woman ended her own life outside the court building in protest of a six-month sentence for trying to get dressed as a man for her team match. Since the Iranian court could not condemn her for coming to football because it is not supported by law, he drew on her that she violated the rules on the clothing of women and acted abusively to football officials and police officers.
This seemed too much to the international football organization FIFA, which ordered Iran to allow women to participate in the 2022 World Cup qualifier.
However, female activists say that FIFA's position is as hypocritical as the Iranian government's actions.