Iran player dodges question on women's rights at World Cup

People supporting Iranian women are holding a banner at the stands during the group B match between Morocco and Iran at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Women's rights remain a sensitive issue within the Iran team at the World Cup

KAZAN, Russia — Women's rights are a sensitive issue within the Iran team at the World Cup.

Masoud Shojaei was evasive during his team's news conference Tuesday when the midfielder was asked what he thought of Iranian women in stadiums in Russia.

"With all due respect for you and your question, we are not just a team. We are a family, and it's our nation which is playing on the pitch," Shojaei said. "If you want to talk about this issue, this is an internal issue that we prefer to solve problems within our family."

Women have been prohibited from attending men's games and other sports fixtures in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. A partial exception to the ban on women was made in June 2015 when a small number were allowed to watch volleyball in Tehran.

Iranian fans attending their team's opening game in St. Petersburg last week unfurled banners protesting against the ban.

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