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Iranian press review: Women footballers complain about playing in 'swamp'

Women's game subjected to atrocious conditions in football-loving nation, while a saucy book hits the shelves 50 years late
Female football players play during a game between Iran and Germany during the Discover Football tournament in Berlin (Reuters)

'Dear ladies, welcome to the swamp'

While the Iranian men’s national football team has gained full government support for its ongoing AFC Asian Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates, Iranian women footballers and sports journalists have highlighted the poor infrastructure in the women’s game.

Pictures posted on Twitter of women footballers playing on a muddy pitch in Tehran have led to criticism of Iran’s ministry of youth and sports and the country’s football association.

“Can’t they really provide a better pitch to the girls?” Kimia Nik, a Tehran-based photographer, tweeted. “This reminds me of mud-rubbing [an Ashura mourning ritual].”

In an article published on 20 January, sports daily Iran Varzeshi also highlighted the poor infrastructure the women’s game is played under. “Women footballers suffer all kinds of shortages, which apparently no one pays attention to,” wrote the paper under the headline: “Dear ladies, welcome to the swamp”.

The Iranian women’s football league, now in its ninth season, comprises 12 teams across the country. Last week’s heavy rain and snowfall has now turned the already poor pitches it uses into quagmires.

A video posted on Twitter from the Kurdish-majority town of Marivan showed a pitch being cleared of snow hours before a match.

House arrest of Green Movement leaders still in place

The leaders of Iran’s Green Movement are going nowhere fast it seems, after Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced in a news conference that their house arrest remained firmly in place.

Dolatabadi also announced that an indictment was issued for Hessam al-Din Ashna, an adviser to Iran's president, regarding his comments last week on easing the restrictions of the house arrests.

Former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, ex-prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, widely known as the leaders of the Green Movement, have been under house arrest since February 2011 following demonstrations against the results of the disputed 2009 presidential elections.

In recent weeks, speculation that the conditions of their house arrest would be eased began to circulate. On 14 January, Karroubi’s son Hossein, in an interview with ILNA news agency, said that his father had recently been permitted to exit the building he was restricted to.

Releasing the leaders was one of the main promises made by Hassan Rouhani during his successful 2013 presidential electionc campaign. However, experts familiar with Iran's power structure believe that the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei holds their fate in his hands.

Print permission at last for 52-year old book

A book about a Tehran neighbourhood infamous for being a sex industry hot spot was published on 15 January after a five-decade prohibition. The book, named after the Qaleh neighbourhood, is a social investigation into the living conditions of sex workers and was written in 1957.

Qaleh, meaning castle, was the unofficial name of this neighborhood, located in the poor southern part of the Iranian capital. It was run by gangsters involved in drug dealing and production. Just months before the 1979 revolution, parts of Qaleh were burnt down and it was shuttered after the fall of the Shah.

Despite the shutdown, illegal activities and prostitution continued in the neighbourhood until 1987, when it was entirely razed by the municipality and an enormous public park was built in its place.

The book consists of interviews and observations, and only covers the neighborhood’s conditions before the revolution. Despite this, it had been prohibited in Iran even after the revolution.

* The Iranian press review is a digest of reports in Farsi-language publications that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.