opinion Maryam Qashqaei ShojaeiIranian activist and founder of the My Fundamental Right campaign.Saturday 30 Jun 2018 12:00 pm
I have been a football fan ever since I was a little girl and the love of the sport runs in my family.
Yet, because of an old ban that prevents women from entering sports stadiums, Ive never been allowed to watch a game live in my home country of Iran.
Women are passionate sports fans just like men, and deserve to cheer on their teams in the stadiums.
The fact that this discriminatory ban has existed for 38 years is appalling, and an assault on our rights to free assembly and full participation in society.
The Iranian government argues that the ban exists to protect women from the vulgar language and behavior men often use at sports games, but I find it unfair that instead of trying to change mens behavior, women are banned from enjoying a national past time.
Women dont need protection from mens foul language, men need to learn to exist safely and politely in mixed-gender settings.
But the good news is that this rule is not actually written into our law, and can easily be overturned – if we apply enough pressure on the right people.
With the worlds eyes on the World Cup, 150,000 people have signed my Change.org petition asking FIFA to pressure our president to lift the ban and I am currently in Russia with other Iranian activists to raise visibility for our campaign.
During Irans game against Morocco, I successfully held a banner that read #NoBan4Women. However, at the second game, I was held for questioning and stripped of the banner. I got the banner back and raised it again at the third game.
And President Rouhani is beginning to listen to our call: Iranian women have been let into Tehrans biggest stadium, Azadi, to watch our second and third games on the screen alongside men.
But lets be clear: these were not live games, and we have no idea if the authorities will continue to let women into the stadium after the World Cup is over.
We want a public commitment from Irans leaders that they will lift the ban for good, and I know that pressure from FIFA could get them to respond.
Our country was thrilled when Iran qualified for the World Cup because we love football and thought that surely FIFA would make a statement about Irans discriminatory ban. But so far Infantino has said nothing.
Iran is the only country playing in this years World Cup that bans women from stadiums, a direct violation of FIFAs gender discrimination statute and their new human rights policy.
How can an organisation dedicated to spreading love for football stand by while Iranian women are kept out of our own stadiums?
By staying silent, FIFA is endorsing a sexist government and telling women football fans everywhere that their voices dont matter.
Join us in demanding better for this World Cup – add your name to our growing petition.