24 April 2018 | Center for Human Rights in Iran
Sponsored by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Abjeez’s “Stadium” was released today on the heels of a multi-language campaign by a coalition of human rights groups urging the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to demand that Iran end its discriminatory ban before the start of the World Cup in June.
Abjeez, the first female-led Persian-language Reggae/Ska band, is led by singers Safoura and Melody Safavi, who wrote “Stadium” as a call to Iranian men to join the women’s movement.
The empty seat by your side is my place.
To have me by your side is your right. It’s my right!
Consider me a part of you. I am your equal.
“Iranian women are at the forefront of these protests [to end the ban],” Melody Safavi told CHRI. “They are extremely strong, fearless and creative.”
“The question is, are our men ready?” asked Safoura Safavi.
Iran has qualified to compete in the World Cup in Russia this year but it is the only participating country that bans women from watching sports from inside stadiums.
“FIFA’s own rules say it won’t tolerate discrimination of any kind, yet it has done nothing to end the ban on Iranian women in stadiums,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“FIFA should uphold its own policies by showing Iran that it will be very costly to continue discriminating against women,” Ghaemi added.
Article 4 of FIFA’s statutes says discrimination of any kind against a group of people is “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
Although women are not legally banned from entering sports arenas in Iran, the discriminatory practice—demanded by hardline religious conservatives—has been an unofficial policy of the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
On March 2, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had “promised” during a meeting in Tehran that women in Iran would “soon” be allowed to enter stadiums.
But a day earlier, 35 women were arrested for trying to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, where Infantino watched a soccer match.
The peaceful struggle against the ban in Iran has been inching forward despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment. Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian dual national, served five months in Evin Prison in 2014 for defying the ban.
“Women are braving arrests and imprisonment for peacefully trying to enter stadiums in Iran,” said Ghaemi.
“FIFA and human rights defenders around the world should support them and demonstrate the unacceptability of Iran’s behavior by imposing costs for this discrimination,” he added.
When asked what the couple dancing in the “Stadium” video symbolize, the Safavi sisters said, “They symbolize equality, strength, unity, cooperation, passion and completion. A reality that we envision for Iran!”
Read a Q&A with Abjeez here.
The International Trade Union Confederation, Building and Wood Workers’ International, FansEurope, Human Rights Watch and CHRI are calling on people to sign the petition against Iran’s stadium ban and spread the word on social media with the hashtag, #Watch4Women.