PHOTOS: Women allowed to watch football in Iran after 37 year ban

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Iranian women were allowed into the national stadium in Tehran for the first time in 37 years on Wednesday night.

The women were part of a crowd of thousands that packed into the Azadi stadium to watch Iran take on former World Cup winners Spain on huge television screens.

Police initially barred women from entering, saying they did not have the ‘infrastructure’ in place to deal with such an event, before the country’s interior minister intervened.

Iranian women cheer on the national team from inside the Azadi stadium in Tehran after they were allowed inside for the first time in 37 years on Wednesday night

As the Iranian national team took on Spain at the World Cup on Wednesday, women were allowed to enter the stadium to watch the match on the big screens

Women have been campaigning for fair access to sport for years inside Iran, and while they have been granted access to some sports, football was off limits until now

Women were initially turned away from the stadium by police who said they did not have the infrastructure in place to deal with such an event, but were allowed inside after Iran's interior minister intervened

Thousands of Iranian women had travelled to Russia to watch their national team live knowing that Moscow would not forbid them, and in Tehran last night (pictured) other women were allowed to join in

Two women gesture at the camera as they watch Iran take on Spain at the World Cup from the Azadi stadium in Tehran

The issue has become increasingly hot in recent years, with female protesters dressing up as men in order to sneak themselves inside.

Thousands also flocked to watch Iran play in Russia, knowing the Moscow authorities would not stop them, while those back home complained of the ban.

Despite the jubilant scenes in Tehran, Iran actually lost their game to Spain 1-0 and will now have to beat Portugal to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament

It had been hoped that the ban would be lifted in time for Iran's opening game against Morocco, which the team won 1-0, but it remained in place until their second match

Iranian women holding a huge national flag cheer alongside the men while watching their team play Spain

A woman draped in the Iranian national flag poses for the cameras during an historic night in Tehran

Despite being allowed inside the stadium, many restrictions remain on women in Iran, such as having to cover their heads

Earlier this year women were allowed into basketball matches at the Azadi sports complex, but had not been allowed to watch football or go inside the main stadium until Wednesday night

Reporters at the stadium said many women left after initially being turned away or decided not to come, but sit-down protesters were eventually rewarded by being allowed in

An Iranian woman leaving Tehran's Azadi stadium flicks a peace sign at photographers following the World Cup match

An Iranian woman with a national flag draped over her head makes her way through the streets of downtown Tehran

Women were last allowed inside the stadium on October 5, 1981, to watch the Tehran derby before being banned as part of sweeping reforms that took place in the wake of the Iranian revolution.

The revolution saw the pro-Western but largely corrupt monarchy ousted in favour of an Islamist government that immediately declared the country an Islamic republic.


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