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Human Rights Watch presses FIFA for action on discrimination

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Human Rights Watch on Thursday pressed FIFA, world football’s governing body, to demand that Iranian authorities allow women to enter stadiums.

The rights group’s demands come after dozens of Iranian women were barred from entering Imam Reza football stadium on Tuesday for a match in Mashhad where teams were competing to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Human Rights Watch said.

“Iranian authorities have repeatedly demonstrated they are willing to go to great lengths to enforce their discriminatory and cruel ban on women attending football stadiums,” Tara Sepehri Far, a Human Rights Watch senior Iran researcher, said.

“Given Iranian authorities’ longstanding violations, FIFA needs to follow its own global guidelines on nondiscrimination and should consider enforcing penalties for Iran’s noncompliance,” Sepehri Far added.

FIFA’s statutes state that gender-based discrimination is “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

For the recent incident, Human Rights Watch cited videos on social media that showed authorities reportedly spraying some of the female fans with pepper spray. Some of the women prohibited from entering had already bought tickets to the match between Iran and Lebanon.

But Iranian Football Federation said in a statement that the women were turned away “due to a lack of preparation,” alleging that some fans had purchased “fake” tickets.

The federation, however, did not provide evidence for those claims.

For decades, Iran has prohibited women from attending sporting events at stadiums, a policy that is not written into law but is “regularly enforced” and has at times involved excessive force and issues like arrests, beatings, detention and abuses, according to the rights organization.

The Hill has reached out to FIFA for comment.

Tags FIFA Human Rights Watch soccer Women's rights
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