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Iranian Women Defy Ban from Watching Sports with Men for World Cup

Iranian Women Defy Ban from Watching Sports with Men for World Cup

As the rest of the world cheered for their teams, three people were arrested for appearing in a video that shows a group of men and women singing, dancing, and rooting for their country in the World Cup, the Associated Press reported Monday. 

The video was proof that women in Iran have defied the country's ban on women enjoying sports games with men. CNN reported that over the weekend several restaurants and cafes saw women and men ignoring the ban to watch Iran play soccer, the country's most popular sport.

The ban originated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, prohibiting women from entering sporting events because mixed crowds enjoying sports games was considered un-Islamic. Since then, the crowds at Iran's football games have been completely male.

To further deter mixed-gender crowds from watching the World Cup together, Iranian authorities warned restaurants and cafes not to broadcast games. The state TV also delays coverage of matches in order to censor images of female fans thought inappropriate for viewers and the state makes sure to keep women out of World Cup billboards throughout Tehran.

But the recent arrests are nothing new in Iran, where the population of young women has consistently demanded equality and rights considered civil to the Western world.

In May, thousands of women created a Facebook campaign where they posted pictures of themselves without their hijabs, which was considered a slight thumbing of the nose to authority. Also last month, six young Iranians were arrested for dancing to Pharrell's song "Happy." 

A few days ago, several Iranian women snuck into a men's volleyball match in Tehran disguised as Brazilian fans and female journalists covering the game were ordered to leave, the IRNA news agency reported. A small group of women protested outside the match, demanding their rights to participate in the support of their country. 

But the consistent defiance may be a sign of change in the country. The state media also reported that Iran's female Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi was "investigating" the ban on women attending matches, which is hoped to be a sign that the nation's moderate President Hassan Rouhani is reconsidering Iranian women's rights.