Several Iranian women have caught people’s attention by revealing the lengths they go to to attend a football match.
Donning beards and wigs, they disguised themselves as men so they could watch their team, Persepolis, play rivals Sepidrood at the Azadi stadium in Tehran last Friday.
Images of the women at the stadium have been widely shared on both Persian and English social media.
Although there’s no official ban on women going to sporting events in Iran, it is rare for them to attend as they are often refused entry. Prior to the Islamic revolution of 1979, women were allowed to attend sporting events.
Women have been punished for attending games in the past. In 2014, British-Iranian activist Ghoncheh Ghavami was detained after attempting to watch a men’s volleyball match in Iran. And in March 2018 35 women were detained for trying to attend a football match.
In February, women were allowed to watch a major basketball game in Tehran – but they had to sit in an area separate to men.
For one of the women pictured, it was the third time she had pulled off the trick. In an interview she gave to the moderate newspaper Iran, she explained that each time she had sneaked in she had used a different disguise and make-up.
“I Google for different make-up [tutorials] and learn new ways and apply them to go to the stadium,” she said.
She told the newspaper she had been stopped by security only once. She encouraged other women to get in touch and offered to train them in disguise techniques.
Asked whether she was ever scared of being detained, she replied: “Why should I be scared? We women do not commit any crimes by going to stadiums. The law has not defined women’s presence at stadiums as a crime. They have, of course, detained a few women and they have given a written promise not to go back there again.”
The photos from the game were initially shared on the women’s personal social media accounts. Most of the responses they received were encouraging.
“Good on you. That takes such bravery,” read one comment.
But not everyone was happy. “Why won’t you go and watch a women’s match? Why would you have to go to a men’s stadium?” asked another.
Another of the women present was asked by the sports newspaper Khabar Varzeshi how she had avoided the security guards.
She said: “We went through the first and second gates in a group, and no-one figured it out. But once we sat in the stands, everyone realised.
“They came over and took selfies with us, praising us for going. Another interesting thing is all of those who knew we were women did not shout anything rude throughout the match.”
She added a few men had accompanied the group to make sure they were OK.
When asked if it had been worth the risk, she replied: “Of course, why not?
“Our goal is to keep going until they allow all women to go.
“We are doing this to say to the authorities that if they don’t let us in, we will keep going nonetheless, with or without beards.”