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Facing Prison for Entering Stadium, She Chose Fire, Death

Esteghlal Tehran mourns death of Iran's 'Blue Girl'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2019 10:25 AM CDT
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Supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal cheer at the Azadi Stadium, in Tehran, Iran, on Dec. 9, 2011.   (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

(Newser) – An Iranian woman awaiting trial on charges that she defied the country's ban on women at soccer stadiums has died a week after setting herself on fire. The woman identified as Sahar Khodayari, age 29 or 30, was detained for three days in March when she allegedly posed as a man in an attempt to watch her favorite team, Esteghlal Tehran, reports the BBC. Nicknamed "Blue Girl" in reference to the team's colors, Khodayari was to face trial last week. Instead, she engulfed herself in flames outside the courthouse after the trial was postponed. While at court to pick up a cellphone, Khodayari reportedly overheard "that if she were convicted she could get six months to two years in prison," per the BBC. She was pronounced dead at a hospital in Tehran on Monday, per the Guardian.

Iran's vice president for women and family affairs has now asked the judiciary chief to investigate the death, which Esteghlal is mourning, per AFP. In a statement, the club describes "much sadness and regret" over "the tragic death of our beloved child." Meanwhile, retired Iranian soccer star Ali Karimi is urging Iranians to boycott stadiums in protest, per the Guardian. Khodayari's death only increases pressure on Iran to lift its unofficial ban on women at certain stadiums, in place since 1981, which Human Rights Watch calls a "clear violation of the rules in FIFA." At FIFA's urging, Iran agreed to allow female spectators at a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Cambodia set for Oct. 10. However, there are now calls for the country to be barred from international competitions. (Read more Iran stories.)

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