Iranian Female Football Fan Dies After Setting Herself on Fire

Sahar Khodayari

Sahar Khodayari, a female Iranian soccer fan who set herself alight in Tehran last week after being arrested for trying circumvent a law banning women in stadiums has died from her injuries, causing widespread outrage.

The state media reported that died at hospital on Monday, September 9, after her self-immolation outside a court where she feared being jailed for six months.

Sahar Khodayari had been arrested in March for attempting to enter Azadi Stadium. A judiciary official said she was charged with “insulting the public by defying the dress code for women,” and “insulting the law enforcement agents.”

Sahar Khodayari’s sister told the state-run ROKNA news agency, “After being taken to Qarchak Prison in Varamin, my sister suffered a lot of mental issues and felt terrified.”

After being jailed for three days she was released on bail and waited six months for her court case.

But when she appeared at court she found out it had been postponed because the judge had a family emergency.

She later returned to court to pick up her mobile phone and it is widely reported that she is thought to have overheard someone saying that if she were convicted she could get six months to two years in prison.

Sahar Khodayari then set herself alight in front of the court house and later died in hospital.

This case is one of the latest consequences of unnecessary and illegal restrictions imposed on women in Iran. Iran is the only country in the world that stops and punishes women seeking to enter football stadiums.

Therefore, any arrest and detention of women for attempting to enter stadiums is considered arbitrary and illegal.

Also noteworthy in this case is the failure of judiciary and law enforcement officials to the mental illness of the victim. While they could have dropped the charges against her citing articles of their own Criminal Procedures Regulations.

“What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heartbreaking,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East research and advocacy director, said in a statement among many expressions of dismay over the fate of Khodayari, who was about 30-years-old.

“Her only ‘crime’ was being a woman in a country where women face discrimination that is entrenched in law and plays out in the most horrific ways imaginable in every area of their lives, even sports,” Luther said.