Iran militia threatens bloody repression of female football fans

Protest in support of female Iranian football fans. (AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

BEIRUT – A hardline Iranian paramilitary group has threatened “a bloody repression” against women attending football matches as the government moves to ease restrictions on female fans in sporting events.

Ansar e-Hezbollah, which enjoys support from leading figures in Iran’s government, issued a statement that was later circulated on social media railing against the move to overturn the country’s long-standing ban of women supporters at football matches, Al-Arabiya reported Wednesday.

“We, the sons of [Ayatollah] Ruhallah Khomeini, will rise up before permission is given and the abomination of women prostitutes spreads in the stadiums,” the statement read.

“Attendance of women in stadiums is a violation of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s rule,” the militia and seminary members said, threatening “a bloody repression of women’s attendance.”

“And that is in keeping with the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice,” the statement added.

Ansar e-Hezbollah, which was formally created in 1992, serves as a plain-clothed attack guard used by the Iranian government to target opponents of the clerical ruling system.

Although not an official part of Iran’s security services, the paramilitary group receives state training and is thought to be close to top circles of the country’s authorities.

The organization’s angry statement comes as the Iranian government is set to allow a “limited number” of women to attend upcoming Volleyball World League matches in June.

Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi told Associated Press earlier in the week that although the decision has not been officially announced, “a limited number of women, mainly families of national team players” will be permitted to attend the matches.

She stressed that women will be able to watch volleyball, basketball, handball and tennis matches, but will still be banned from attending football matches.

The female official in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government also said that the government was “hoping to avoid a showdown” with hardline groups on the matter.

On Tuesday, an Iranian government spokesperson vowed that authorities would put down protests against women’s attendance of male sporting events, as hardline groups seek to maintain the ban instituted after the 1979 revolution.