Of the more than 20 women who started the campaign, now called Open Stadiums, Sara is the only one to remain in Iran. The rest, she said, fled the country.
“It should be based on statute that they suspend the federation,” Sara said.
Last March, while Infantino was in the company of Iranian officials, Sara protested with three dozen female soccer fans and activists by trying to enter the Azadi — some while dressed as men — for the biggest match in the country, a showdown between the clubs Persepolis and Esteghlal that was watched by as many as 100,000 men. The protesters were arrested and detained for several hours.
The movement to lift the stadium ban has gained a nationwide following, becoming part of the larger conversation about women’s rights in the conservative Muslim country. In its earliest days, even many Iranian feminists dismissed the movement.
Shojaei, who moved to Canada in 2007 and became a citizen in 2012, has had her banners confiscated while overseas, including in Russia, where FIFA, which has adopted a new human rights guidelines, had provided express permission for her to attend with its delegation.
“I talked to two well-respected clergy, and they said it’s nothing to do with Islam,” she said.
The ban, which has been extended to volleyball and basketball, provides a stark contrast with other cultural arenas in Iran, including theaters, where people of different genders freely mix.
But in a country hobbled by sanctions, the successful soccer team has unmatched popularity, with millions of fans tuning in when Team Melli takes the field.