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FOOTBALLERS demanded that Fifa end “gender apartheid” in Iran today after an Iranian female fan died after setting herself on fire because she had been sentenced to six months in jail for trying to enter a football stadium.
Thirty-year-old woman Sahar Khodayari died at a Tehran hospital on Monday following last week’s tragic incident, which reportedly occurred after she heard that she could go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in March to watch an Esteghlal match.
She was pretending to be a man, wearing a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat, when the police stopped her.
Her death immediately sparked an outcry among football stars around the world, as well as known figures in Iran, where women are banned from football stadiums, though they are allowed to attend some other sports such as volleyball.
Wolfsburg goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl tweeted that it was time Fifa intervened to help women in Iran.
“Hi @FIFAcom — it is overdue to do something for the women in Iran. This is not okay. Rest in peace #SaharKhodayari, a very brave woman!”
International team-mate Kosovare Asllani demanded that Fifa end the ongoing “gender apartheid.”
She said: “I have a platform and I have never been afraid of raising my voice when in need. This is a tragedy and it can’t continue anymore. @FIFAcom it’s time to act and not be silent. WE need to help the women of Iran fight against gender apartheid. This is about human rights! #SaharKhodayari.”
Khodayari was known as the “Blue Girl” on social media for the colours of her favorite Iranian football team, Esteghlal.
The club tweeted that they were “cowards” for being unable to support her.
“Our dear Sahar burnt herself to death, when she was charged to 6 month in jail for … going to the stadium to support her #Esteghlal.
She supported us despite the politics made it illegal for her, but what we do can do to support her? Absolutely nothing.
“We are cowards.”
Khodayari had spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case.
No verdict had been delivered in her case so far. There were reports that Khodayari, a computer sciences graduate, had attempted to take her life once before, while in university.
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 football stadiums to protest at Khodayari’s death.
Iranian-Armenian footballer Andranik “Ando” Teymourian, the first Christian to captain Iran’s national squad and also an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran’s major football stadiums will be named after Khodayari “once, in the future.”
Female legislator Parvaneh Salahshouri called Khodayari “Iran’s girl” and tweeted: “We are all responsible.”
Earlier this year, Fifa president Gianni Infantino wrote to his Iranian Football Federation counterpart Medhi Taj expressing his “disappointment” that the country had gone back on its commitment to open up stadiums for women and called for assurances that “all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and to attend the matches of the qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, which will start in September 2019.”
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