Iranian Women Banned from World Cup

Mon May 8, 2006 6:39 PM EDT

Just a month before the World Cup is slated to begin, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has overruled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's previous decision to allow women at men's soccer games—provided they were seated in a separate section. Despite the fact Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in April that allowing women would "improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere," the president withdrew his request

Conservative Shiite Muslim clerics, who showed strong support for the president's election last year and who have maintained a strong control over Iranian society for the last several decades, lobbied heavily for a reversal of the decision, arguing that it was a clear violation of Islamic law. According to the BBC, one cleric said that had the decision to welcome women remained, "there would have been suicide bombers protesting on the streets of Teheran."