Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

Iran's 'Blue Girl', arrested for trying to enter football stadium, dies after self-immolation

Sahar set herself on fire outside a court after learning she may have to serve a six-month sentence

Female Iranian football fans watching from a distance as the Iranian national football team train in Tehran, after hundreds of women were barred, Monday, 22 May, 2006. EPA
Female Iranian football fans watching from a distance as the Iranian national football team train in Tehran, after hundreds of women were barred, Monday, 22 May, 2006. EPA

An Iranian woman arrested for trying to enter a football stadium has died after she set herself alight outside a court in Tehran, sparking uproar on social media.

The woman, identified only as Sahar, 30, died from her burns at a hospital in Tehran on Monday, Shafaghna news agency reported.

Sahar had become widely known as the "Blue Girl" because that is colour of her favourite team, Esteghlal.

She set herself on fire last week, after learning she may have to go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in March to watch an Esteghlal match.

Sahar posed as a man and wore a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat when the police stopped her.

She then spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case.

A verdict had not been reached in her case but she had heard of the possible consequences of trying to breach the ban in Iran.

While banning women from men's sporting events is not written into law, ultrareligious clerics have dictated that female fans cannot enter stadiums for them.

Iranian footballers and politicians reacted to the news with criticism of the regime.

The captain of Iran's national football team, Masoud Shojaei, has led the campaign in support of Sahar, posting his views to more than 400,000 followers on his Instagram account.

"As we are shocked by the limits set for women in the past, the future generation will also definitely be astonished by discovering that women were banned from entering sports arenas in our time," Shojaei said in a live post.

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi, who played 127 matches for Iran and has been a vocal advocate against the ban on women, urged Iranians to boycott football stadiums in protest against Sahar's death.

Iranian-Armenian football player Andranik Teymourian, the first Christian to be the captain of Iran's national squad and also an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran's major football stadiums will be named after Sahar "in the future".

Female politician Parvaneh Salahshouri called Sahar "Iran's Girl" and tweeted: "We are all responsible."

Updated: September 11, 2019 08:28 AM

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