Photo: Bidarzani

On Saturday, Iranian authorities released four women on bail who were arrested for trying to circumvent the ban on women entering soccer stadiums in the country by dressing as men, according to a researcher from Human Rights Watch. Cops arrested a total of six women brought them in for questioning on Aug. 13, and transferred to in Qarchak prison, a detention center known for its inhumane conditions, one day later—the fate of the other two women is still unknown.

Forough Alaei, Zahra Khoshnavaz, Leili Maleki and Hedieh Marvasti were the four women released. Alaei is best known for her work as a photojournalist, and in 2019 she won the World Press Photo award for a project focused on women soccer fans in Iran watching, or trying to watch, the game they love. Khoshnavaz is an Iranian poet who has disguised herself as a man to get into soccer games at least three times. Here’s what one of those disguises looked like.

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Iranian women being banned from soccer stadiums has been a long-standing practice since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. While the country has made minimal strides in progress by allowing a select handful of women to watch some games, officials in charge of these decisions often make their bigoted opinions on this matter very clear, as we’ve noted before.

Between the insanity of these state regulations, and the fact that FIFA is moving at a snail’s pace with forcing Iran to lift this ban, Iranian women who want to catch a soccer game live have to resort to putting on fake beards and wearing clothing that will allow them to blend in with an all-male crowd. Those who participate in this act of protest understand that they risk being arrested, and potentially serious jail time. But that risk doesn’t seem to be a huge deterrent as evidenced by the fact that these six women had used the same disguise last February to attend Azadi stadium to watch Persepolis receiving the winning cup in Iran’s super league.