Iranian woman arrested for trying to enter soccer stadium dies from burns

She was reportedly suffered from burns covering 90% of her body and was on life support until her death.

September 10, 2019 13:52
Iranian woman arrested for trying to enter soccer stadium dies from burns

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group B - Morocco vs Iran - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 General view of a banner displayed referencing Iranian women during the match. (photo credit: REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ)

The 29-year-old Iranian woman who set herself on fire in front of a Tehran court on September 1 in protest of a six-month prison sentence she was possibly facing for trying to enter a men's soccer game back in March has died in the hospital.

Also known as Iran's "Blue Girl" for the color of her favorite soccer team, she reportedly suffered from burns covering 90% of her body and was on life support until her death.

The woman attempted to disguise herself as a man in order to enter the stadium. She was stopped by security forces and then quickly escorted to Qarchak prison, known to be one of the country's more menacing prisons due to "inhumane medical and psychological conditions", according to Radio Farda.

Months after her release from her three day stint in Qarchak, the unnamed woman, known only by the alias "Sara," went to the prosecutor's office to collect her confiscated cellphone, where she learned that she could be given a six-month prison sentence for the infraction, according to reports.

Sara, who allegedly was suffering from and was under treatment for bipolar disorder, protested the sentence by pouring gasoline over her body and setting herself on fire directly outside the court.

Some Iranians have requested FIFA hold the Iranian football federation accountable as a result of the court case. Her sister released the news of her mental status on the state-run news agencies IRNA.

Iranian soccer players Masoud Shojaei and Vorya Ghaffouri, as well as many politicians, have spoken out in condemnation of the Islamic Republic following her arrest.

"As we are shocked by the limitations that were set for women in the past, the future generation will also definitely be astonished by [finding out] that women were banned from entering sports arenas in our time," said Shojaei, the captain of the Iranian men's football team on a live Instagram post. "The origin of such limitations is the rotten and disgusting thinking of the past, and will be incomprehensible for the next generation."

This incident comes almost three weeks after Iran, under international pressure, released a group of women who were arrested for watching a men's soccer match. The women disguised themselves as men, just as Sara did, but failed to fool Iranian officials. Their situation had a more positive ending, since they were released from jail.

"Without a doubt, the self-immolation of a girl today after the extension of her custody on the charge of trying to enter a stadium to watch football is rooted in outdated and cringe-worthy thoughts that will not be understood by future generations," said Shojaei.

According to Radio Farda, within hours after Shojaei and Ghaffouri posted their condemnations, many other "well-known" players joined in to voice their support of lifting the restriction on women from entering men's sporting events.

Iran has consistently faced international scrutiny regarding its modesty laws. According to the Telegraph, Iran says that women watching men's soccer promotes promiscuity.

Soccer's world governing body FIFA commands a code of ethics against discrimination and has given the country an ultimatum that it must fulfill by October: Allow women to enter sports arenas or the Iranian team will be removed from international soccer events, Radio Farda reported.

Iran is presently the only country in the world that prohibits women from entering sporting events.

The rule stems from an "unwritten law" that has been "supported by religious conservatives and political hardliners" since the change in power during the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Iranian citizens are at wit's end with the Islamic Republic regime's stance regarding their participation and unorthodox practices surrounding the sporting arena, both domestically and internationally.

The hashtag #BanIRSportsFederations has materialized over social media last week, calling for Iran to be banned from participating in world arenas, due to their archaic ideals regarding competitive sports in general – labeling it "state interference," according to a BBC report.

Most Iranians have gathered together to support Sara – despite FIFA handing down a deadline to Iran to "pave the way" for female attendees to be able to enter these sporting events, a deadline which expired August 31, Iran has continued to arrest female offenders.

Others are pointing to this month's case where Iranian judoka Mollaei said he feared for his safety after he was pressured to pull out of the 2019 World Judo Championships that took place two weeks ago, in order to avoid the possibility of facing Israeli opponent Sagi Muki - inadvertently losing his number-one world ranking in the process.

Mollaei requested asylum in Germany after the loss in the 2019 World Championships.

Since the early 2000s, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts by countless athletes hailing from Muslim countries – mainly Iran.

In the quarterfinals, Muki faced Egyptian Mohamed Abdelaal, who refused to shake Muki’s hand after having lost to him. Shaking hands at the end of a judo match is customary. Failing to shake the hand of one’s opponent is a sign of great disrespect.

The International Judo Federation confirmed the news about Mollaei’s asylum request, according to French news site RMC Sport.

Head of the IJF Marius Vizer told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that Mollaei feared he and his family would be subjected to violence by the Iranian regime if he faced Muki, who went on to win the world championship on Wednesday in Tokyo.

“It is a non-negotiable principle that Iranian athletes must refrain from competition with Israelis,” said the former commander of the Basij Resistance Force General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar on Iranian state-run television, according to Radio Farda, adding that supporters who favor Iranian athletes facing Israeli competitors in competition is “testing the waters for establishing relations with Israel. This is not something that one can test and see if the result is positive, then take further steps. No further steps will be taken, because we will break their legs as soon as they take their first step [toward Israel].”

In July, President of the Iran National Olympic Committee Syed Reza Salehi Amiri said Iranian athletes will not compete against Israeli athletes, despite Iran claiming in a letter addressed to the IJF that things might change.

“Refraining from participating in competitions with athletes of the Zionist regime is an issue of the Muslim world, and athletes from 20 countries refrain from doing so. I said that we are acting within the framework of the Iranian regime’s policy – and for this reason, we are not competing with athletes of the Zionist regime,” Amiri said.

Iranians who are fed-up with the archaic ideals in which Iran displays within the sporting world are now spearheading the movement to have Iran banned throughout the international and domestic arenas completely, until change is enacted.

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