Iranian woman dies after setting herself on fire in protest at possible jail sentence for watching football

29-year-old arrested in March after trying to enter Tehran stadium disguised as a man

Zamira Rahim
Tuesday 10 September 2019 15:32 BST
The woman has become known as ‘blue girl’, because her favorutie team play in the colour
The woman has become known as ‘blue girl’, because her favorutie team play in the colour

A woman has died after setting herself on fire while facing a possible jail sentence for watching a game of football illegally in Iran.

Sahar Khodayari was detained after she was caught trying to enter Tehran’s main football stadium while disguised as a man.

Women in Iran are banned from watching men play football in stadiums, despite the fact that this violates FIFA’s constitution.

The sports complex is known as the Azadi stadium. Azadi is the Persian word for freedom or liberty.

The 29-year-old was held in jail for three days before being released on bail.

On 2 September a Tehran court told her that she could be tried by a Revolutionary Court and face up to six months in prison.

After hearing the news, Ms Khodayari doused herself in petrol outside the court.

She suffered 90 per cent burns across her body.

The 29-year-old died on Monday, according to the semi-official Shafaghna news agency.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s president, had warned the Islamic Republic to allow women in stadiums or face sanctions, in remarks made in June.

The 29-year-old has become known as “the blue girl” online, for the colour associated with Esteghla , her favourite football team.

Her preferred disguise for watching matches was a blue wig and long overcoat, which also contributed to the nickname.

Her sister told local media in Iran that Ms Khodyari had bipolar disorder and that her time in prison, before being released on bail, had led to her mental health deteriorating.

“What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heartbreaking,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director.

“Her only ‘crime’ was being a woman in a country where women face discrimination that is entrenched in law and plays out in the most horrific ways imaginable in every area of their lives, even sports.”

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Masoud Shojaei, the captain of the Iranian national football team, paid tribute to the fan on Instagram.

“As we are shocked by old limitations set for women, the future generations will be astonished to [find out] that women were banned from entering sports arenas in our time,” he said, according to Radio Farda.

Esteghlal has issued a statement, offering condolences to Ms Khodayari’s family.

Andranik Teymourian, a Esteghal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran’s major football stadiums should be named after Ms Khodayari.

Additional reporting by agencies

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