Iranian women to attend football match freely for first time in decades

Iranian sports journalist Raha Pourbakhsh shows purchased electronic tickets for the Iran-Cambodia World Cup 2022 qualifier match during an interview with AFP in front of Azadi stadium in Tehran on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 10 October 2019

Iranian women to attend football match freely for first time in decades

  • World football’s governing body FIFA ordered Iran last month to allow women access to stadiums

TEHRAN: Thousands of Iranian women fans are to attend a football match freely on Thursday for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its controversial male-only policy.

The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

World football’s governing body FIFA ordered Iran last month to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

The directive came after a fan dubbed “Blue Girl” died after setting herself on fire in fear of being jailed for dressing up as a boy to attend a match.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday.

The first batch sold out in less than an hour, and additional seats were also snapped up in short order, state media said.

The Sports Ministry said the 100,000-capacity stadium — whose name means “Freedom” in Farsi — was ready to host even more women.

One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a football journalist.

“I still can’t believe this is going to happen because after all these years of working in this field, watching everything on television, now I can experience everything in person,” she told AFP.

But Poorbakhsh said she was aware of many other women without tickets.

There have been rare occasions in recent years when Iranian women have been allowed to watch matches, but this time they were free to buy their own tickets, albeit a set number.

Using the hashtag #WakeUpFifa, women have taken to social media to demand more tickets.

While women have already taken up their entire allocation, only 2,500 men have so far purchased electronic tickets for the more than 70,000 seats available to them, the ISNA news agency reported.

Those lucky enough to attend will be segregated from men and watched over by 150 female police officers.

People on the streets of Tehran said they supported the decision to allow women into stadiums.

“I would like there to be freedom for women, like men, to go freely and even sit side by side without any restrictions, like other countries,” said a woman who gave her name only as Hasti.

Nader Fathi, who runs a clothing business, said the presence of women could improve the atmosphere in stadiums.

But he said “they will regret it” if they are exposed to “really bad swear words” and “bad behavior.”

The bumpy road Iranian women have traveled in order to gain free access to stadiums has not been without tragedy.

Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself ablaze outside a court in fear of being jailed for attending a match.

Dubbed “blue girl” because of the colors of the club she supported — Tehran giants Esteghlal FC — she had reportedly been detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a boy.

Her death sparked an outcry, with many calling for Iran to be banned and matches boycotted.

The judiciary dismissed reports she had been told she would be jailed, and Khodayari’s father said she did not “sacrifice” herself for any cause.

 

 

Foreign pressure

Ahead of Qatar 2022, FIFA has pressed Iran to allow women to attend qualifiers.

But Iran denied its decision to allow women into Thursday’s match was a result of “foreign pressure.”

“The presence of #women in stadiums is due to the internal social demands and government’s support of those demands,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei tweeted.

The ban on women in stadiums is not written into law or regulations, but it has been strictly enforced.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have only had rare access to stadiums in Iran.

About 20 Irish women attended a World Cup qualifier in 2001, and four years later a few dozen Iranian women watched the national team take on Bahrain.

In October, as many as 100 “handpicked” Iranian women watched a friendly against Bolivia.

The day after, the prosecutor general warned there would be no repeat, saying it would “lead to sin.”

Then in November, a select group of about 850 women attended a match between Esteghlal’s Tehran rivals, Persepolis FC, and Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

The issue continues to be deeply divisive in Iran.

Reformists have welcomed the latest move, but conservatives have come out strongly against it.

The Donya-e-Eqtesad financial newspaper called it “a step to weaken a taboo and also free Iran’s football of the looming shadow of FIFA’s punishment.”

But the ultra-conservative Kayhan daily said women were more concerned about economic issues.


Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

Updated 21 May 2022

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

  • Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks
  • Last week journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli firing while covering a raid

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces early Saturday during a raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
“A 17-year-old boy was killed, and an 18-year-old was critically wounded by the Israeli occupation’s bullets during its aggression on Jenin,” a statement by the health ministry said.
Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks in Israel in which 19 people were killed.
Thirteen Palestinians were injured last week during an operation by Israeli forces in the camp in which one Israeli commando and one Palestinian were also killed.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett named the Israeli commando as Noam Raz.
The Palestinian was later named as Daoud Al-Zubaidi, a brother of Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, who headed the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and briefly escaped from Israeli prison last year.
The raids came hours before violence erupted at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was killed last week while covering another Israeli raid on the camp.
As her funeral unfolded, Israeli police stormed the grounds of a Jerusalem hospital as the body of the slain journalist was being transported for burial, prompting an international outcry.


Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

Updated 21 May 2022

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

  • On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created "National Consultative Commission for a New Republic"
  • Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited "national dialogue"

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Friday appointed a loyalist law professor to head a committee charged with writing a constitution for a “new republic”, through a national dialogue that excludes political parties.
On July 25 last year, Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, sidelining the political parties that have dominated Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
He has since vowed to scrap the country’s 2014 constitution and draft a replacement to be put to referendum in July, but has repeatedly inveighed against political parties despite calls for an inclusive dialogue.
On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created “National Consultative Commission for a New Republic”, charged with drawing up a draft constitution.
Saied has also created three other committees to focus on socio-economic issues, the judiciary and on national dialogue.
While major organisations including the powerful UGTT trade union confederation are supposed to be involved, no political party is set to take part.
Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited “national dialogue” – at the same time attacking the political parties he accuses of having plundered the country.
Since his July power grab, many Tunisians have supported his moves against a political class seen as corrupt, but opponents have labelled his moves a coup and he has faced calls from home and abroad for a dialogue involving all of the country’s major actors.


Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

Updated 20 May 2022

Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

  • "The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumours that they spread and lies they tell," Guards commander Hossein Salami said
  • Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies

DUBAI: Thousands of supporters of Iran’s clerical establishment, including 50,000 Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia members, rallied on Friday, state media reported, after protests against rising food prices turned political.
“The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumors that they spread and lies they tell,” Guards commander Hossein Salami said in televised remarks at the massive rally outside the capital Tehran, which marked a major victory in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies. On Friday, state television showed pro-government marchers chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in southwestern cities of Yasuj and Shahr-e Kord, scenes of recent protests.
Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies caused prices to soar by as much as 300 percent for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing unrest in 2019 which began over fuel prices hike.
The government acknowledged the protests but described them as small gatherings. State media reported last week the arrests of “dozens of rioters and provocateurs.”
Authorities have also arrested a number of labor union and rights activists, accusing them of contacts with foreigners, a leading rights group said on Friday.
“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
Iran’s state television on Tuesday showed what it described as details of the arrest of two French citizens earlier this month, saying they were spies who had sought to stir up unrest.
France has condemned their detention as baseless and demanded their immediate release, in an incident likely to complicate ties between the countries as wider talks stall on reviving a nuclear deal.
In recent months, teachers across Iran have staged protests demanding better wages and working conditions. Dozens have been arrested.
Social media users inside Iran say Internet services have been disrupted since last week, seen as an apparent effort by authorities to stop use of social media to organize rallies and disseminate videos. Iranian officials denied any disruption to Internet access.


Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

Updated 20 May 2022

Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

  • The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Sanaa
  • In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of "treason and spying for foreign states"

DUBAI: Amnesty International has urged Yemen’s Houthi militia to free four journalists facing the death penalty for “espionage” in the war-torn country, ahead of an appeal court hearing on Sunday.
The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram Al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
“Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must quash the death sentences and order the immediate release of four Yemeni journalists who are facing execution following a grossly unfair trial,” the rights group said in a statement on Friday.
In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of “treason and spying for foreign states.”
“This has been a sham of a trial since the beginning and has borne a terrible toll on the men and their families,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Lynn Maalouf, according to the statement.
One of the detained men, Mansouri, is in a “critical health condition” with heart and other ailments, Amnesty said.
“Pending their overdue release, the journalists must be provided with urgent medical care — the denial of medical treatment for the seriously ill is an act of cruelty which amounts to torture and other ill-treatment,” the statement said.
At the time of their trial, Amnesty criticized their sentencing on “trumped-up charges,” while Reporters Without Borders called the verdict “totally unacceptable.”
Their arrest was motivated by their reporting on “human rights violations committed by Houthis,” the International Federation of Journalists and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate have said.
An appeal will be heard by the Specialized Criminal Appeals Division in Sanaa on Sunday.

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Sudan frees detained anti-coup figures, Communist Party says

Sudanese demonstrators take to the streets of the capital Khartoum on May 19, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2022

Sudan frees detained anti-coup figures, Communist Party says

  • Thousands of protesters took to the streets, mainly in Khartoum but also elsewhere, to again call for civilian rule in the latest rally against the October coup

KHARTOUM: Sudanese authorities released on Friday two anti-coup figures from the Communist Party a day after their arrest, the party said.
The military’s October takeover in Sudan has sparked nationwide demonstrations which sparked a crackdown that has killed at least 95 protesters and wounded hundreds, medics say.
Hundreds have also been arrested after rallies calling for civilian rule in the northeast African nation.
On Thursday during protests mainly in Khartoum, authorities arrested the Communist Party’s political secretary Mohammed Mukhtar Al-Khatib and another member.

BACKGROUND

The military’s October takeover in Sudan has sparked nationwide demonstrations which sparked a crackdown that has killed at least 95 protesters and wounded hundreds, medics say.

They were detained after meeting rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nour who has refused to sign a landmark 2020 peace deal with the Sudanese government, the party said.
The pair were released on Friday, it said.
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who led the coup, pledged in April to release political detainees to set the state for talks among Sudanese factions.
Last year’s military power grab has sparked international condemnation.
The UN and African Union have called for a dialogue between all Sudanese factions to resolve the crisis.