April 14, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6876

Women Arrested In Iran For Dressing As Men In Order To Attend Soccer Game; Khamenei Issues Fatwa Against Women Riding Bicycles In Public

April 14, 2017
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 6876

Iran's Islamic law bans women from attending public soccer matches attended by men, and women who have attempted to do so have been arrested in the past. Additionally, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently issued a fatwa banning women from riding bicycles in public, arguing that doing so attracts the male gaze and is therefore forbidden.

This report will discuss ways in which women are being pushed out of public spaces in Iran:

On February 12, 2017, Iranian authorities arrested eight young women who had disguised themselves as men in order to watch a soccer match between Esteghlal F.C. and Persepolis F.C. at Tehran's Azadi Stadium. According to reports, the women face legal action.

Alireza Adeli, head of security for the Tehran municipality, stated that this was not the first time that women have disguised themselves as men in order to enter the stadium, and stressed that the ban was aimed at "preserving their honor, because the stadium's atmosphere, commotion, and crowds are no place for them. Dear women who wish to watch the match can do so on TV, which broadcasts the games and gives everyone a way to watch them live."[1]

Two of the girls who were arrested (, February 14, 2017)

Social media users posted sarcastic and angry remarks about the arrest:

"Thanks to the vigilance of [security] forces, eight girls who intended to enter Azadi Stadium were arrested, and peace returned to the hearts of ideologues. Death to the anti-woman Trump" (, February 16, 2017)

"Instead of [calling the stadium] Azadi [freedom] – [call it] Incarceration Stadium – a stadium that symbolizes the humiliation and wretcheness of a chained nation" (, February 14, 2017)

"Sad that the girls were barred from entering the stadium. This is ridiculous" (, February 16, 2017)

Tweet by journalist Enayat Hoseinian: "All our problems in this match [involve] the lack of female presence in Azadi Stadium; they arrested eight girls who managed to get in. So what? Good for them?" (, February 14, 2017)

Another example of the Iranian regime's ban on women engaging in athletic activity in public in view of men was the fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in response to a question posed by the Iranian news agency Fars, which is close to the IRGC, about women riding bicycles in public. The fatwa, published September 10, 2016, reads:

"Question: What is the Leader's opinion on women riding bicycles in parks, streets, and other public places where strange men are present?

"Answer: Women riding bicycles in public and in view of strange men attracts their attention, which could cause fitna [strife] and corruption in society, and it also violates women's purity. Therefore, it must not be done. If there are no strange men around, then there is no problem."[2]


[1] Tasnim (Iran), February 14, 2017.

[2] Fars (Iran), September 10, 2016.

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