There was outrage in Iran on Wednesday after thousands of women with tickets were denied entry to a stadium hosting a football World Cup qualifying match.

President Ebrahim Raisi ordered an Interior Ministry inquiry, a regional governor apologized and the country’s attorney general said the incident was “not acceptable.”

The World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on Tuesday night, which Iran won 2-0, took place at the Imam Reza stadium in the northeastern city of Mashhad. About 2,000 women who had bought tickets for match gathered at the perimeter of the stadium but were not allowed to enter.

Mohsen Davari, the governor of Mashhad, said: “I apologise that many people couldn’t enter the stadium. Unfortunately, a large number of people outside were deprived of watching the game.”

Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said: “If conditions allowed the sale of tickets to women, a suitable place had to be found for them.” The incident was “not acceptable … and showed poor management,” he said.

Iran has generally barred female spectators from football and other sports stadiums since the revolution in 1979. The country’s powerful clerics say women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-clothed men.

The latest incident is likely to attract the attention of world football’s governing body, FIFA, which ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women access to stadiums without restriction or face suspension from international competitions.

That directive followed an outcry over the death of Sahar Khodayari, a football fan who was detained in 2018 trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man. She later set herself on fire in fear of being jailed.

 

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