Death of Sahar Khodayari, facing prison for trying to enter stadium, provokes outcry
An Iranian female football fan has died a week after setting herself on fire outside a courtroom, after learning she may face six months in prison for trying to enter a stadium, a news agency reported on Tuesday.
Sahar Khodayaris death immediately ignited an outcry in Iran, where women are banned from football stadiums, although they are allowed to watch other sports, such as volleyball.
Khodayari, 29, died at a hospital in Tehran on Monday, according to the semi-official news agency Shafaghna. She was known as the Blue Girl on social media after the colours of her favourite Iranian soccer team, Esteghlal.
She set herself on fire last week, reportedly after learning she may be imprisoned for trying to enter Tehrans Azadi (freedom) stadium, in March, to watch an Esteghlal match. She was reportedly posing as a man and was wearing a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat when the police stopped her.
She spent three nights in jail before being released, pending the court case.
No verdict had yet been delivered in her case. There were reports Khodayari, a computer sciences graduate, had attempted to take her life once before, while in university.
Her sister had told an Iranian state news outlet that Khodayari had a mental health condition and was receiving treatment, a mitigating factor that would have allowed authorities to drop the charges if they chose.
Esteghlal issued a statement, offering condolences to Khodayaris family.
Iran has occasionally allowed small numbers of women into football matches including a match last year attended by Fifas president, Gianni Infantino but rights groups say these instances have been publicity stunts and that little is being done to dismantle the unofficial ban.
Infantino gave the Iranian government a deadline of 15 July to lay out what steps were being taken to ensure women could attended qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup that will be held in the country from October.
Whilst we are aware of the challenges and cultural sensitivities, we simply have to continue making progress here, not only because we owe it to women all over the world, but also because we have a responsibility to do so, under the most basic principles set out in the FIFA Statutes, Infantino wrote in the letter, obtained by the New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran.
Iran will play its first World Cup qualifier at home at Azadi stadium against Cambodia on 10 October. There has been no announcement about whether women will be permitted to attend, and if not, whether Irans football federation will face any sanction.
Several members of Swedens national womens team tweeted their outrage at Khodayaris death. This is a tragedy and it cant continue anymore, said Kosovare Asllani, the teams captain. Its time to act and not be silent. We need to help the women of Iran fight against gender apartheid, she wrote, tagging Fifas official account.
The 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 Khodayaris death.
The Iranian-Armenian soccer player Andranik Ando Teymourian, the first Christian to be the captain of Irans national squad and an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehrans major soccer stadiums would be named after Khodayari in the future.
The minister of information and communications technology, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, described the death as a bitter incident.
The female lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri called Khodayari Irans Girl and tweeted: We are all responsible.
International helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.
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