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This is the moment hundreds of women were barred from entering a World Cup qualifier match in Iran before allegedly being pepper sprayed.
Video footage shared online shows women and girls choking and crying with their eyes streaming following the incident outside the Imam Reza stadium in the holy Shia city of Mashhad on Tuesday.
Some 2,000 females had bought tickets to see Iran play Lebanon in the country’s last 2022 World Cup soccer qualifying match, reported the ISNA news agency.
But the first few hundred to arrive were immediately refused entry before the authorities allegedly employed pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
The shocking incident comes after former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised football governing body FIFA gradual reforms back in 2018.
A year later, FIFA threatened to suspend Iran if it did not allow female fans access to matches. Iran agreed to let women attend national games at the Azadi stadium in Tehran, but it remained unclear whether the ban was lifted nationwide.
Hundreds of female fans are blocked from entering the Imam Reza stadium in the holy Shia city of Mashhad, Iran on Tuesday
A girl is comforted after reportedly being pepper sprayed for trying to enter the World Cup qualifier against Lebanon
A woman is seen in discomfort after being doused in suspected pepper spray outside the stadium in Iran
The FIFA directive came after a young Iranian woman on trial for attending a football match – and terrified of going to jail – died when she set herself on fire outside a court room.
It was hoped that women would be permitted to watch matches in stadiums going forward, but most stadiums have continued to bar women, despite promises of change.
In footage shared online from Tuesday, hundreds of female fans can be heard chanting: ‘We have an objection’, after being told they could not enter.
Some are seen attempting to kick open the stadium’s gates.
One woman, speaking to Fars news agency outside the stadium, said: ‘They said that women can get tickets and enter the stadium.
‘We were on the website yesterday from 12pm to 8pm so we could get tickets.
‘All the ladies who are here have tickets. We took leave from work, we spent a lot of money, but now they are saying women can’t enter.’
Mail Online has contacted FIFA for comment.
Iran defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Tuesday’s game, although an earlier victory over Iraq in January had already assured the team a spot in the World Cup, due to be held in Qatar.
Women attending men’s games and other sports events has been largely prohibited in Iran since the country came under strict Islamic rule following the 1979 revolution.
The country is now ruled by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enforces strict religious laws – including the death penalty for being gay.
FIFA demanded that Iran provide assurances that female fans would be allowed to attend the World Cup qualifiers. (Pictured: The Imam Reza stadium)
Local Friday prayer leader in Mashhad, Ahamad Alamolhoda, has said he is always against the presence of women as spectators in men’s sports, branding it a ‘vulgarity.’
After the match, Iran’s captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said he hoped female fans would be permitted to enter in the future.
It comes after more than 2,000 women and girls were allowed into the Azadi stadium in Tehran in the qualifier against Iraq.
Iran beat their Middle-Eastern rival 1-0 and became first Asian group team to qualify for the World Cup.
It was only the second major football event that has permitted women and girls, following the Asian Champions League final in 2019, which saw Persepolis play Japanese team Kashima Antlers.