Football, Women, Iran and Solidarity

Harry Barnes regrets that Iraq is not taking part in the World Cup but asks us to look at the plight of female football fans in Iran
Some will feel that the national fervour that arises when the World Cup takes place has its downside. But in terms of building up feelings of national solidarity, it is a great pity that Iraq isn’t currently playing in Germany.
In the absence of Iraq we can direct our attention to what is happening just over the Shatt al’ Arab river in Iran.
Women are banned from attending male football matches. In June 1998 one of the reasons given by the Press Court for banning the newspaper “Jame” was “that the publication of the pictures of young men and women dancing in the streets of Tehran following Iran’s victory over America in the World Cup soccer on June 20 violated Islamic Principles” (page 177 “Iran Today” by Dilip Hiro.)
Currently there is a fascinating and fine film I saw yesterday, which deals with the plight of female football fans in Iran.
Jafar Panahi’s “Offside” deals with the unsuccessful efforts of a handful of women to attend the Iran v Bahrain World Cup qualifier. Disguised as men, they are discovered and arrested by soldiers. But they and the soldiers end up celebrating their teams victory in the packed and jubilant streets of Tehran, when on their way to prison their minibus is caught up in the crowd. A crowd which had its far share of flag waving women in jeans and t-shirts.
Needless to say, this first rate film which is full of comedy and pathos has also been banned in Iran. Full and sympathetic reviews of this film classic can be found in the current editions of the New Statesman (page 51) and The Observer
Events are brought bang up to date by two extra reports.
First, Tehran-based female blogger ET gives an account of her watching Iran lose to Mexico 3-1 on TV on Sunday. “The apartment was draped with flags. Faces were painted green and white; young women wore t-shirts; horns were blaring; the music was loud. Within minutes a tray filled with vodka was passed around the room. The stereo was blaring Arah’s “Iran…Iran…”
At half time, with the score at 1-1, she goes outside with a young man. ( “My Iran is here” the face-painted man said to me as he pointed to the apartment. “It is not there”. He pointed outside. “I love my Iran. My people are happy inside and sad outside.”)
Secondly, Iran News reports that yesterday some 5,000 women and supporting men participated in a peaceful General Women’s March to protest against the general lack of Women’s Rights; included were members of the Tehran Bus Drivers Union.
They report that vans were full of protesters who had been arrested and the homes of the organisers were raided prior to the demonstration. It was even arranged for women dressed in green nun-like hijabs to pass themselves off as demonstrators before using batons and pepper gas to attack the protesters.
Iran’s next World Cup game is against Portugal and is on TV at 2 p.m. on Saturday, 17 June. If you aren’t (like me) going to the Compass Conference in London, why not give them a shout. I will have to wait for the match against Angola at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 June.
It is not that I have anything against the supporters of Portugal and Angola. But if Women’s Rights for Iran is to engage our active support, then sympathy for the problems of their women football fans might be a good start.