Iranian authorities have permitted women to access public viewing centres of the football World Cup after recent national and international protests against the long-standing ban.
“The permit is only valid for the public viewing of Wednesday’s World Cup match between Iran and Spain in Russia,’’ Iranian news agency ISNA reported.
Women were previously banned from attending the public viewings of Iran’s opening World Cup game.
In the Azadi and Takhti stadiums in Tehran, women will be permitted to watch the match live on a large screen from the family stands, making it the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979 that women have been legally permitted to enter the Azadi Stadium.
“If all goes well, this could be a prelude to the general lifting of the women’s stadium ban,’’ reformist lawmaker Tayebeh Siavoshi told ISNA.
The public viewing ban against women has also been lifted in parks and other public facilities for the match against Spain.
In spite of the ban being in place for Iran’s first World Cup match against Morocco on Friday, many women took to the streets after the game to celebrate Iran’s 1-0 victory.
According to eyewitness reports, some took off their headscarves and danced with male fans into the early hours of the morning.
Women in Iran have been banned from entering stadiums for over 40 years, with ultra-conservative clerics arguing that women should not witness frenetic male fans and their pithy slogans.
The ruling, however, has even been countered by President Hassan Rouhani, who himself is a cleric.
“Women cannot be punished if men in the stadiums do vulgar things,’’ said Rouhani.
At the World Cup in Russia, Iranian fans and women activists have protested with placards in the stands against the stadium ban in Iran.
World football’s governing body FIFA has explicitly allowed the initiative.