Women in Iranian welcome


Thousands of Iranian women forced their way into Tehran's Azadi stadium in defiance of the authorities yesterday to attend an official welcoming ceremony for the Iranian football team after they qualified for next summer's World Cup final in France.

The women, dressed in the scarves, black robes or long coats mandatory in the Islamic Republic, surprised the stadium guards and stormed the gates after being turned away on their first attempt, witnesses said.

The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, estimated the number of women spectators, some of whom were carrying the Iranian flag and accompanied by children, at around 5,000. They sat in a separate section from the men for the ceremony honouring the Iranian team for their comeback against Australia last Saturday to reach France. Iran were 2-0 down until the 76th minute of the second leg in Melbourne. But two goals in the space of three minutes saw them go through on the away goal rule.

Women have not been allowed to attend sports events with men in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the authorities had warned on Monday that women would not be allowed to attend the ceremony. In the end, more than 100,000 people were present to revel in the celebrations.