A lot of Iranians — especially Iranian women — were outraged at the double standards demonstrated by the organisers of the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Syria held on September 5 in Azadi Stadium in Tehran. While police in Tehran let several female Syrian supporters — including some who weren’t wearing the veil — enter the stadium, they blocked access to all Iranian women.

The game between Iran and Syria was a qualifying match for the World Cup that will kick off in Russia next year. The final score was 2-2: a tie which gives Syria the possibility of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, if they beat Australia in a two-legged set for October. The result set off an outpouring of joy in Syria. Even the Syrian commentator went wild. Iran, for its part, has already qualified for the World Cup.

But during the Iran-Syria game, an entirely different struggle was taking place off the pitch.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran, police have been systematically preventing female fans from attending men’s sports competitions — even though there is no such law. Many Iranian women are extremely frustrated by this situation, so it’s become common to see female fans out protesting during games.

Female fans “insulted” by this decision

However, FIFA regulations stipulate that a country must allow the fans of a visiting team — no matter their gender — to attend all games. If a country breaches this rule, they risk sanctions.

That’s why, during the Iran-Syria game, Iranian police let several female Syrian fans enter the stadium — right in front of the protesting Iranian female fans. What's more, some of the Syrian women weren’t wearing head coverings, which Iranian women are obliged to wear in public.

Many Iranians called the police’s behaviour downright “insulting” and accused them of operating “with double standards”. Photos shared online documented the situation. They showed bare-headed Syrian women in the stadium — while Iranian women were barred from entry. Even Iranian men started complaining when photos emerged of Syrian fans wearing shorts, while Iranian men have to abide by a strict dress code and are obliged to wear trousers.

”Last week, I was coming back from holiday and police asked me why I was wearing shorts,” complained one Iranian man on social media after seeing a photo of several different Syrian fans wearing shorts.

"Syrian women can watch a game, even without wearing the hijab, while Iranian women are kept out,” complained another Iranian on social media.

One woman claimed that “the police told an [Iranian] woman, 'Pick up a Syrian flag and you'll be allowed to go in'.” According to several Iranian activists, at least one young Iranian woman slipped into the stadium dressed as a Syrian fan.
This is not the first time that both women and men have protested against the ban on women attending men’s matches and vice versa. Read our previous articles on the topic: