Barred from stadiums at home, Iran women travel to World Cup final in Russia in a last-ditch attempt to prove their country can take it.
They wear bright yellow T-shirts with a red-and-white check mark on the back and the word ‘No’ emblazoned across the front. This year, they have decided to wear black to show their solidarity with those denied entry to World Cup stadiums in Russia this weekend.
It is a show of defiance against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Iranians are seeking to send a message to the rest of the world about their government’s brutal response to anti-government protests over the past nine months, as well as their determination to continue resisting it.
Women in Iran have been protesting for the past week, taking to the streets to protest against the regime’s policies on women’s rights and education. After a week of protests in which hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, some have gone to prison. In his latest speech, President Hassan Rouhani called on them to “turn to the ballot box”.
“This is what we need to turn to,” the president said in Friday’s speech in parliament. “Women need to be at the poll box. We need women who will tell the truth, whether in universities or in other [places], that it is time to turn to the ballot box and go to the ballot box.”
Some of the protesters are members of the Muslim Organisation for Human Rights, the largest and most prominent of the groups which have taken to the streets. In a video released after Rouhani’s speech, a woman in the group, Khahreh Rahbar, said the group will continue to participate in protests until Iran’s constitutional monarchy is removed. “In the end, we believe in democracy and we believe that the people are the most powerful, but we will not back down until we get to the ballot box and vote for the change we want