Image: AP

For the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were able to enter Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a live broadcast of the World Cup match between Iran and Spain.

Women in Iran have had segregated access to public spaces and been explicitly banned from attending sporting events since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Breaking this law could generally lead to fines, arrest, or incarceration.

After Iran’s recent win in its opening match against Morocco, local officials in Tehran announced that men and women attendees would be able to purchase tickets to a live screening of the next game at capital’s largest soccer stadium. However, on the day of the match, law enforcement attempted to stop women and families from entering. Attendees protested, quickly organizing a sit-in in front of police officials, according to tweets from witnesses.

Women were finally able to enter the stadium before the kick-off.

Activists have long been calling for a change in the law, and the recent win comes after years of protests and advocacy movements. In April 2018, five Iranian women used wigs and fake beards as disguises to sneak into Azadi stadium for a trophy ceremony. In June 2015, a young woman was jailed for protesting outside a volleyball match at the same stadium. The ban has since been lifted from volleyball events, but other sporting event (like soccer) are still restricted for women.

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The recent allowance technically only applied to Wednesday’s match, and women still face restrictions when entering public spaces. Open Stadiums, a movement looking to end the restrictions placed on women, shared in a tweet their hope that this win would lead to a complete lift on the ban, allowing women to watch all live matches in stadiums.