A Recent World Cup Match Marked A History-Making Moment For Women In Iran

"They are the ones who won tonight."

Iran lost its World Cup match against Spain on Wednesday, but the game marked a win for Iranian women, who were allowed to watch a screening from Tehran's Azadi Stadium. It's the first time women have been allowed into the stadium in close to 40 years. According to NBC News, women in the country were banned from attending soccer matches and other men's sporting events in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

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Unfortunately, fans faced some setbacks in entering the stadium Wednesday night. According to reports, police initially didn't allow people into the event, claiming "infrastructure" problems. However, after a sit-in protest outside the stadium, Iran's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani apparently stepped in, and ticket-holders were allowed in.

NBC News reports that the stadium put 10,000 tickets on sale for the event, which sold out immediately. Women were allowed to watch the screening from the stadium's family section.

Iran is the only country participating in this year's World Cup to not allow women into stadiums at home. Saudi Arabia lifted its own similar ban earlier this year, along with allowing women to drive and ending its 35-year ban on movie theaters.

Because of the strict rules in their home country, some Iranian women have traveled to Russia to attend World Cup matches. According to ABC News, a group called Open Stadiums has been campaigning against the ban for 13 years, and at a World Cup game last week, two activists from the group displayed banners calling for an end to the ban.

Although it was a celebratory event, there is no indication that Iran plans to lift the ban permanently. However, one person who seems to support further change for the country is Sergio Ramos, Spain's team captain. The Guardian points out that he tweeted a story about Wednesday's historic moment, writing, "They are the ones who won tonight. Hopefully the first of many."

"These doors finally opened. The image of women's happiness and encouragement has been widely disseminated, and has been broken down into cyberspace," British-Iranian activist Ghoncheh Ghavami told NBC News. "It's hard to close the doors of the stadium on women now."

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, called this a "positive development" for the country, adding, "Iranian women have been risking arrest by peacefully protesting this ban for years and have shown they won't back down until they are treated as equals."

It's not the first historic moment for women during this year's World Cup. Last week, 14 girls from Russia became the first all-female group of "ball boys" for the tournament's opening match. 

Cover image: kovop58 / Shutterstock.com

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