Women And Football
True freedom is not needing any saviours
For the first time in decades, Iranian women won the simple right to watch a football match in a public stadium. This has come about after Fifa mounted intense pressure on the regime, which has informally banned women from such spaces since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The issue came to a head after 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari immolated herself after she was caught going to a stadium dressed as a man, and sentenced to six months in prison for not wearing a hijab. Dubbed the Blue Girl, her cause caught the imagination of the wider world and sportspersons rallied to her cause.
It is heartening to see women occupy spaces denied to them by a repressive regime. Often, international condemnation can support women’s movements, draw attention to twisted norms and build momentum for change – as happened in India after the Nirbhaya gang rape. Iran has recently seen several instances of resistance – both spontaneous and coordinated. Recently, after a teenaged Maedeh Hojabri was arrested for Instagram posts of her exuberant dancing, many women posted defiant videos of themselves doing the same.
The point is simple, as it is anywhere in the world: do not command and control women. They are complex humans – who can find solace and structure in faith, as also dance with abandon or yell at a football game. The full range of human capacities must be available to them, not denied by male guardians of order – whatever that order happens to be.