Letter to FIFA President Infantino on the detention of Iranian women football fans

Re: Iranian women football fans and journalists detained outside Azadi Stadium

Dear President Infantino,

The Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), a global coalition of NGOs and trade unions committed to embedding human rights and anti-corruption in world sport, is greatly disappointed by the events yesterday in Iran in which female football fans and sports reporters were unjustly arrested by police outside of Azadi Stadium as you remained inside watching the Derby Day match that the women and girls were banned from attending based solely on their gender. It is especially regrettable that this occurred on the same day that FIFA circulated its draft Statement on Human Rights Defenders and Media Representatives to SRA partners and other select civil society groups, as well as the day before the 2018 FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion in Zurich.

This latest act of discrimination and oppression against Iranian women football fans and journalists stands in violation of international human rights law and in stark contrast to your human rights policy, as articulated in Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes, and your non-discrimination and gender equality provisions in Article 4, among other regulations. Furthermore, it is a situation that the Iranian women sports fans have consistently warned FIFA about, including in a public letter to you this week, asking you to intervene with Iran’s football association officials to remind them to abide by their contractual obligations and to ensure women enjoy their right to non- discrimination in football in accordance with FIFA regulations.

FIFA’s human rights policy mandates that the organisation must respond to the negative human rights impacts that its operations have contributed to with respect to these Iranian women football fans and journalists. We request information on what human rights risk assessment and mitigation process FIFA conducted in advance of this event. We also want to know what action FIFA plans to take now to remedy this situation and to prevent such events from happening again, in line with your public commitments to uphold the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Given Iran’s long-standing position to exclude Iranian women from such sport matches, the appropriate strategy would have been to get commitments from the Iranian authorities in advance that women would be permitted to buy tickets and watch the match. FIFA missed a key opportunity to ensure that the presence of its President at the match would provide protection for the women football fans, who have been systematically banned from Iran’s Derby Day match since 1981.

The SRA requests to meet with you to discuss this matter and other important issues related to our engagement with FIFA on the implementation of the 2017 Human Rights Policy. We consider it vitally important to meet before the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

We look forward to your response, and thank you in advance for your attention to our concerns and request to meet.

Gigi Alford
On behalf of the SRA

Gigi Alford
Coordinator | 
Sport & Rights Alliance

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Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for human development, unity, and freedom, but too often it instead brings harm to its athletes, fans, and communities. We exist to uncover and rectify the many abuses that exist both in and around sport. We aim to transform sports into an authentic force for good.