Not even a statewide ban can withstand the almighty power of the World Cup.
Women in Iran have been attending broadcastings of the World Cup alongside men in public places like restaurants and cafes, defying the country's law. While women are not allowed to enter stadiums to watch football (as a way to prevent un-Islamic mixing of sexes), authorities have even cautioned restaurants, warning them not to turn on their TVs as it may draw a co-ed crowd.
But it looks like people care more about the beautiful game than who is sitting next to them or how un-Islamic that may be. Via CNN:
Throughout the rest of the cafe other women intermittently cheered, gasped, and shouted instructions at the direction of the big screen TV.
"100 percent it's better this way," said Negar Valayi. "It doesn't happen often. It would be great if we have more of this."
"It's actually much better to watch it with a bunch of people around because it makes you feel more excited," said Roya Marzbahan.
Women's rights activists in Iran have protested against the ban on women at sporting events before. After Iran defeated Australia in the World Cup qualification in 1997, millions of Iranian men and women took to the streets—women penetrated a police barrier and broke into the stadium they were banned from entering. In 2006, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allowed women to attend soccer matches in big stadiums so long as they sat in a separate section, but the ban was promptly reinstated by Iranian clerics.
Watching the World Cup in a mixed crowd at a local cafe may not be as audacious as breaking into a stadium, but it certainly is a small, defiant step in the right direction.
Image via CNN.