Death of Sahar Khodayari

Sahar Khodayari (Persian: سحر خدایاری‎; Persian pronunciation: [sæhær xodɒjɒriː]; c. 1990 – 9 September 2019),[2] also known as Blue Girl,[a] was an Iranian fan of Esteghlal F.C. In March 2019, she attempted to enter Azadi Stadium disguised as a man to watch a match played by the team, against the national ban on women at such events. On 2 September the same year, she was told by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran that she may face a six-month prison sentence. After leaving court, she committed suicide by self-immolation in front of the building.[3][4] She died a week later of her injuries. Khodayari's self-immolation has generated much debate in Iran about the government's restrictions on women.[5]

Sahar Khodayari
سحر خدایاری
Sahar Khodayari, Blue girl 2.jpg
Born1990 (1990)
Salm, Iran[1]
Died9 September 2019(2019-09-09) (aged 29)
Tehran, Iran
Cause of deathBurns from self-immolation
Resting placeBehesht-e Fatemeh, Qom
EducationBA in English & interpreting
BA in Computer Engineering[1]
Known forSelf-immolation in protest of her prison sentence
TitleBlue Girl
Criminal charge(s)Woman trying to enter Azadi Stadium against prohibition
Criminal penalty6 months' imprisonment (not confirmed)

With Iran chosen to host select qualifier games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, FIFA has said that Iran must allow women into the stadium to see those international football matches. Iran guaranteed such entry for the first time after 40 years, one month after Sahar’s death.[6] Khodayari has since become a symbol of protest against the Islamic Republic's oppression against women.[7]

Incident and suicideEdit

Sahar Khodayari was born in 1990 to a family in Salm, Kiar County, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Iran.[1] Her family includes a sister. The family later lived in Tehran. Khodayari graduated from university with degrees in English and in computer sciences. As a young woman she became a fan of the game of football. She was identified as "Blue Girl" on social media, after the colors of her favorite club, Esteghlal FC, based in Tehran.[3]

In March 2019 Khodayari tried to enter Azadi Stadium for a match of AFC Champions League between Esteghlal and Al Ain FC.[5] Because women in Iran have been prohibited since 1981 from attending football matches, she disguised herself as a man to enter undetected. (Women may attend other sports, such as volleyball matches.)[3] But the security guards noticed Khodayari and arrested her for violating the prohibition; they took her to the local NAJA. She was held for three nights in jail before being released on bail, pending her court case.[3]

According to Amnesty International, Sahar Khodayari was ordered six months later to attend a Revolutionary Court in Tehran on 2 September 2019 to give a reason for her attempt to enter Azadi football stadium. She was charged with "openly committing a sinful act by… appearing in public without a hijab" and "insulting officials". While no verdict was delivered in her case because the judge was unavailable, she was reportedly told she might face a six-month jail sentence.[2][3][5] After Khodayari left the court, she poured petrol on herself and set herself on fire outside the courthouse in self-immolation.[2]

She died in hospital one week later due to the third-degree burns that she had suffered (approximately 90% of her skin surface area had been affected).[8][9][10] According to DW, the six-month jail sentence had been affirmed while she was in hospital.[11]

In October 2019, Iranian women were allowed to attend a football match in Iran for the first time in 40 years.[12]



  • Gholam Hossein Ismaili, the spokesman of judicial system of Iran, claimed that Sahar Khodayari had not been convicted nor sentenced to 6 months' imprisonment, as was reported. He said that the media had published "rumor" that was not true.[13][14][15]
  • In an interview with the state-owned TV, before her family was told not to speak to the media,[11] her sister had said that Khodayari was receiving treatment for mental illness. There were rumors that she had tried to kill herself while a university student.[3] Because of this, authorities might have reduced charges against her, if they had chosen to do so.[3]
  • Ali Karimi said that Iranians should "boycott soccer stadiums to protest Khodayari's death."[16]

Worldwide reactionEdit

  • FIFA made a statement about Khodayari's death: "We are aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it."[17][18] Iran has been chosen as a site for qualifier matches for the 2022 World Cup, and FIFA has said the country must provide for free entry of women to those international matches.[3][5][19]
  • Amnesty International said, "What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heart-breaking and exposes the impact of the Iranian authorities' appalling contempt for women's rights in the country."[20]
  • A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State said: "The death of blue girl, Sahar Khodayari, is another proof for the fact that the Iranian people are the greatest victims of the Islamic regime."[21]
  • On 12 September 2019 an arrest warrant was issued for Saba Kamali, an Iranian actress, after her post on Instagram in support for the death of the Blue Girl. She had published an imaginary dialogue with Husayn ibn Ali questioning the relevance of the ceremonial Ashura event compared to Iran's discriminatory laws.[22]
  • According to france24, Iranian football fans reacted with shock and anger following Khodayari's death.[23] By using #BanIRSportsFederations, Iranians called for the Islamic regime's sports federations to be banned from participating in world sport.[24]
  • Some local football stars and known figures, and international players and football authorities responded to Khodayari's death with public statements.[25][26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Blue is Esteghlal's jersey color,


  1. ^ a b c "Who is Sahar Khodayari? The Death of the Blue Girl brought up a wave of empathy" (in Persian). BBC. 14 September 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Iran: Shocking death of football fan who set herself on fire". Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Safi, Michael (2019-09-10). "Iranian female football fan who self-immolated outside court dies". The Guardian. Associated Press. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  4. ^ "Iranian football fan dubbed 'Blue Girl' arrested for trying to watch men's game dies week after setting herself on fire". ITV News. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  5. ^ a b c d "Iran's 'blue girl' dies after setting herself on fire". BBC.
  6. ^ "Iranian women allowed to watch football at stadium for first time in decades". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Dying after setting herself on fire, "Blue Girl" spotlights Iran's women's rights movement". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "دختر آبی یک هفته پس از خودسوزی اعتراضی درگذشت" [Blue Girl passed away one week after self-immolation] (in Persian). Iran International. 2019-09-10.
  9. ^ ""دختر آبی" درگذشت" [Blue Girl Passed Away.] (in Persian). Radio Farda. 2019-09-09.
  10. ^ "دختر آبی؛ عشق فوتبالی که سوخت و سوزاند" (in Persian). BBC Persian. 2019-09-09.
  11. ^ a b von Hein, Shabnam; agencies (n.d.). "Iran: Female soccer fan dies after setting herself on fire". DW. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Iranian women attend first soccer match in 40 years". Reuters.
  13. ^ "سخنگوی قوه قضائیه ایران: سحر خدایاری به اشتباه خود اعتراف کرده بود". bbc. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  14. ^ "حمله سخنگوی قوه قضاییه به "دختر آبی" یک هفته بعد از مرگ او؛ "تعادل روانی نداشت"". voanews. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  15. ^ "سخنگوی قوه قضائيه: برای سحر خدایاری حکمی صادر نشده بود". dw. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  16. ^ "Iranian woman accused of attending soccer game dies after lighting self on fire". Times of Israel.
  17. ^ "FIFA statement". Iran International. Twitter. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  18. ^ "فیفا: از این تراژدی آگاه و متاسفیم" [FIFA: We Are Aware Of That Tragedy And Deeply Regret It.] (in Persian). Iran International. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  19. ^ "FIFA Says Women 'Have to Be Allowed' Into Iran's Soccer Stadiums". Time.
  20. ^ "Iran: Shocking death of football fan who set herself on fire exposes impact of contempt for women's rights", Amnesty International, Sep 10, 2019, retrieved Sep 10, 2019
  21. ^ "واکنش وزارت خارجه آمریکا به مرگ "دختر آبی": بزرگترین قربانیان جمهوری اسلامی مردم ایران هستند". صدای آمریکا (in Persian). Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  22. ^ "'دستور بازداشت' یک هنرپیشه زن در ایران به اتهام 'توهین به امام حسین'". September 12, 2019.
  23. ^ "Iran's #BlueGirl dies after setting herself on fire in football-ban protest". The France 24 Observers. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  24. ^ "Iranians call for world sport ban - on Iran – BBC News".
  25. ^ Fedschun, Travis (2019-09-10). "Iranian female soccer fan 'blue girl' dies after setting herself on fire". Fox News. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  26. ^ "Fotbollssupporten Sahar död i Iran". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-09-10.