Iran's 'blue girl' dies after setting herself on fire

Ross Houston
September 10, 2019

The stadium ban is not written into law or regulation but Iranian women have always been banned from men's soccer matches based at least partly on the theory that females should not hear fans swear.

Volleyball, another popular sport, similarly sees officials bar women from attending men's games in the capital, Tehran, though women were allowed in some matches in other Iranian cities.

She died of her injuries at a Tehran hospital Monday, the semi-official news agency Shafaghna reported.

Dubbed "blue girl" because of Esteghlal's colours, she set herself on fire outside the court last week upon hearing from someone there that she would be going to prison for six months, it said.

She set herself on fire a week ago, reportedly after learning she may have to go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in February to watch an Esteghlal match.

Khodayari spent three nights in jail before she was released on bail and waited six months for her court case.

Sahar was first arrested in March this year at Tehran's Azadi Stadium while trying to attend a match between her favourite team Esteghlal and Al Ain, a team from the United Arab Emirates.

She then set herself alight outside the court.

The authorities in Iran regularly stop women from entering stadiums. "Fifa convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran".

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi, who played 127 matches for Iran and has been a vocal advocate of ending the ban on women, urged Iranians in a tweet to boycott soccer stadiums in protest at Khodayari's death.

The female lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri called Khodayari "Iran's Girl" and tweeted: "We are all responsible". Iran's government faced an August 31 dead by Fifa to allow women to attend official football matches in order to "pave the way" for female attendees, the BBC previously reported.

Calling the case "heart-breaking", Philip Luther from Amnesty International said her death showed the impact of Iran's "appalling contempt for women's rights".

Hard-liners and traditional Shiite clerics, citing their own interpretation of Islamic law, believe in segregating men and women at public events, as well as keeping women out of men's sports. Banning females from watching live soccer matches is against regulations set by the worldwide football federation FIFA.

Prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979, women were allowed to watch sporting events.

Activists are now calling for the ban on women attending men's matches to be lifted. She had been on life-support since.

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