Iranians call on FIFA to act after young Iranian woman’s fatal self-immolation

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An Iranian woman who set herself on fire after being given a prison sentence for attending a football game died from the burns on Tuesday, according to media reports.

Sahar Khodayari died from injuries received after self-immolating on September 1 outside the public prosecutor’s office.

Kohdayari had been told she would receive a six-month prison sentence after being detained by police on March 12, 2019, accused of trying to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch a football game, her sister reported to Iran’s state-run news agency Rokna.

Khodayari, who had travelled from Qom to Tehran, attempted to enter Azadi Stadium dressed as a man, but was caught by security, her family told Iranian newspaper Sharvand.

“At the time of the self-immolation, the official in charge of the prosecutor’s office told the girl that she faced a six-month sentence in jail. The girl protested but told that since the judge was on bereavement leave, a court would be held later to hear her protest,” reported Rokna.

She then spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case, according to AP. She later set herself on fire on September 1 and spent a week in hospital before dying on Tuesday.

FC Esteghlal’s twitter account confirmed her death. Khodayari was a supporter of the club and became known as the “Blue Girl” because Esteghlal wear blue jerseys.

Iran is the only country in the world where women are banned from sports stadiums. The country has had an unwritten ban on women attending football stadiums since the so-called Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Iran faces the threat of being removed from world football organization FIFA, whose regulations prohibit discrimination by gender.

Khodayari’s death has provoked a reaction on Twitter, with many Iranians expressing sympathy with her, calling on FIFA to act, and criticizing the Iranian regime. Users popularized the hashtags #BanIRSportsFederations, #SaharKhodayari, and #Blue_Girl in reference to her support for Esteghlal.

Ali Karami, a retired Iranian footballer who played 127 matches for Iran, called for a boycott of stadiums in Iran in an Instagram post.

Prominent Iranian women's rights activist Masih Alinejad repeated the call for a boycott of stadiums, addressing FIFA via twitter: “We call on football players not to play in honor of Sahar’s memory.”

Twitter user SM Radio added that, “For 40 yrs Iranian women have not been able to watch sports in stadiums; swim in public; keep custody of their children; travel without written permission from their male guardian; wear what they like #Abdurdistan The Burnt Generation.”

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