Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

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U.S. Special Envoy Congratulates Iran On World Cup Qualifying Victory

In a rare message, the U.S. special envoy on Iran has congratulated the Islamic Republic’s national soccer team on making it to this year's World Cup in Qatar.

"Congrats to #teammelli on qualifying for the #WorldCup2022. It's good to see women were allowed to attend the match," Robert Malley wrote on Twitter , using the Iranian team's nickname.

Iran became the first team from Asia to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals with a 1-0 victory over Iraq in a match that took place in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on January 27.

Iranian women were allowed into the stadium for the first time in almost three years to watch the victory, which marked the sixth time in the nation’s history that Iran earned a spot at the World Cup.

Despite the spread of the aggressive omicron variant of the coronavirus in Iran, the authorities approved the presence of some 10,000 spectators – including more than 2,000 women -- in the 100,000-seat stadium.

Football’s world governing body FIFA had long demanded that Iran provide assurances that women will be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Iranian women have been largely prohibited from attending men's sporting events since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In 2019, for the first time in decades, hundreds of women were allowed to watch -- from separate stands -- Persepolis play the Kashima Antlers of Japan in the Asian Champions League final in Tehran.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

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