Ruhani gives green light for Iranian women to attend football matches

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Iranian President Hassan Ruhani has given the green light for Iranian women to attend football matches, Iranian news agency ISNA reported on Monday.

Ruhani conveyed the news in a note to Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar, who in turn asked the president how the Ministry for Sport should proceed.

There seems to have been a thawing on the matter within Iran’s ultra-conservative clergy, which previously had been of the opinion that women had no business being in football stadiums alongside passionate male fans shouting pithy slogans.

Now a spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council – the 12-man body that wields significant power in the country – says that an “absolute ban” is no longer rational.

“If there should be a way then it should be no problem to find a solution [to the stadium ban],” Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei said, according to state news portal YJC.

Proposals for stands exclusively for women and families have previously been rejected by the clergy.

But years of protest – most recently in front of an international audience as Iran played at the World Cup in Russia – seem finally to have worked.

Iran’s arch-enemy Saudi Arabia – traditionally seen as more conservative than Iran – recently allowed women to attend matches, and Iran’s refusal to follow suit had earned it a welter of criticism on social media.

The breakthrough came in June, when Iran’s 1-0 World Cup loss to Spain was shown on a big screen at a stadium in Tehran, marking the first time in nearly 40 years that women have been allowed to follow a football match in a stadium in the country.

Women have been banned from entering stadiums in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.