• Reading Level 5
Geography | Physical Education | PSHE

Iran’s #BlueGirl and the shaming of football

Does world football have any purpose beyond profit? This is the question raised by the abject failure of the highest-governing body of the sport, FIFA, after the death of Sahar Khodayari. Last spring, a young woman named Sahar Khodayari went to see her favourite Iranian soccer team, Esteghlal, play at Azadi Stadium in TehranThe capital of Iran.. "Azadi" means "freedom" in Persian, but Khodayari wasn't free to enter the stadium that day because Iranian women are barred from attending soccer matches. So, she dressed as a man, wearing Esteghlal's blue team colour. Security guards stopped her, and she confessed that she was a woman. Khodayari was arrested and held in jail for three days, then released pending a court hearing. Khodayari appeared for her court date and learned that the case had been postponed but, apparently, also found out that she might face a jail term of anywhere from six months to two years. Fearing that prospect, she doused herself with petrol outside the courthouse and set herself on fire. Khodayari, who was 29, died days later in hospital. In an interview, a family member said the prospect of having to spend time in Gharchak Prison, a women's penitentiary in the city of Varamin, had devastated Khodayari. Over the summer, 200 inmates there protested its inhumane living conditions in an open letter to the government. Khodayari's tragic death caused an uproar both in Iran and around the world. Iran's law, officially supposed to stop women from gawking at "half-naked men" and to protect them from "vulgar comments" during the game, has now stood for almost 40 years. Women have been allowed to attend a few games in stadiums, but they still face severe sanction in other cases. In recent days, Iranian soccer fans have started to sing chants in support of the #BlueGirl, as Khodayari is known. When Esteghlal played, the players' jerseys were printed with the words "Blue Girl", despite the government's warnings to avoid any mention of her. Afghan women at a stadium in Kabul held signs honouring her memory. In Turkey and in Saudi Arabia, women have sent messages declaring solidarity in the fight for women's rights. Many are now questioning the role of the world's football authority. Its former president Sepp Blatter has said, "Football has the power to build a better future [...].n FIFAn exists because we love the game, recognise its power and feel a strong duty to society." But with the 2022 World Cup coming up in another repressive Middle Eastern country, Qatar, whose laws keep women as effective second-class citizens, has FIFAThe Federation Internationale de Football Association is the world's highest governing body of association football. sold its principles for money? Does world football have any purpose beyond profit? Embarrassing Of course, it does, say many. Just think of the huge progress for women everywhere inspired by the FIFA Women's World Cup this year. And FIFA has published a landmark human rights policy that commits the federation to "upholding the inherent dignity and equal rights of everyone affected by its activities". FIFA is a pathetic organisation, say others. It is afraid to cause controversy in Iran because it might upset lucrative World Cup planning. Sure it "reiterated calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any woman engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran". These maybe the right words, but they're nothing more than that. KeywordsTehran - The capital of Iran.

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