June 16, 2018 - 16:54 AMT
Iranian women protest against ban on attending football games

Iranian women, who have been banned from soccer stadiums in the Islamic Republic since 1980, have taken their protest to the globe's biggest sporting event: the World Cup, NDTV reports.

For the first time in the tournament's history, female soccer fans staged demonstrations inside a stadium, hoisting posters against the ban during Friday, June 15's match between Iran and Morocco in Russia's cultural capital.

"Iran doesn't want to see happy women in the stadium," said Sara, 34, a member of a group called OpenStadiums that works in Iran to overturn the ban. She, along with the other Iranian women in this story, spoke on the condition of partial anonymity out of fears of being arrested upon returning to Iran. "They're worried about what else we'll want."

During her protest she wore a hijab - rare for her when traveling outside of Iran - to disguise her face and so that she would look no different than the women back home. "It was amazing to see how many people reacted positively, taking pictures [of my banner]," she said.

Women in Iran have been forbidden from attending all-male sporting events since a year after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but last year authorities overturned a ban on women attending volleyball games. That change happened after British-Iranian student Ghoncheh Ghavami spent more than three months in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, because she tried to get into a volleyball match.

Many hope the volleyball decision is a signal that women will soon be allowed to watch the country's favorite sport.