Perhaps Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement last month that women would be permitted to attend soccer matches was just a poorly executed April Fool's joke. A government spokesman announced Monday that Ahmadinejad has reversed his decision based on disapproval from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
This is sure to come as upsetting news for Iranian women gearing up to cheer on their national team in the upcoming World Cup, or attend a soccer match for the first time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution (without having to disguise themselves as men). Ahmadinejad initially declared that women would be welcome to attend matches and sit separate from male fans, in some of the best seats in the arena.
This isn't the first time Ahmadinejad has flip-flopped when discussing women's role in society. In arguing for his previous decision to allow women to attend soccer games, he said, "Some consider women as the source of corruption and this is a very wrong attitude." He even postulated that women would have a civilizing effect on raucous soccer fans ... before changing tack and adding that women sometimes espouse ideals that are contrary to Islam.
In more disheartening news regarding women in the Middle East, Afghan legislator Malalai Joya was attacked Sunday after speaking out on the parliament floor against the mujahedin. Several female colleagues threw plastic bottles at her, while male colleagues verbally attacked her and threatened to kill her, according to the Associated Press. Luckily, several fellow lawmakers formed a protective circle around her. Joya has a history of speaking out against human rights abuses and, regardless of death threats, has no intention of stopping: "They may kill me, they may slash my neck. I will never stop my words against the criminals, against the drug dealers."