Feature on Maryam Qashqaei Shojaei, an Iranian activist who is trying to change Iran’s rule on allowing women into sport stadiums:
Maryam Qashqaei Shojaei grew up watching football on TV with her mother in Iran. Her mother used to reminisce about attending sports matches in stadiums in Tehran prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution.
At the time, being allowed the same freedom seemed unimaginable to Shojaei, but today, she is without any doubt that it is attainable.
“When I was little, it was quite normal to me that as girls we would not go into the stadiums to watch the matches,” she tells Middle East Eye. “My mother would talk about attending [before 1979] and it seemed… unbelievable.”
Shojaei, an Iranian activist who moved out of the country around 10 years ago, has made international news in recent weeks as she came to Russia for the 2018 World Cup tournament, not just as an avid football fan, but to raise awareness for a “basic” and “fundamental right”, which is allowing women to enter Iranian sports stadiums.
Iran was the only country that participated in the FIFA tournament, Shojaei says, with a ban on women entering sports stadiums. In fact, Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally imposed strict regulations against women in sport, overturned their own ban, allowing women into football stadiums for the first time this year.