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This week Iranian women watch their first football match in 40 years and the Home Office’s passport AI is racist


14 Oct 2019

Courtesy of @hosmey_v

Usually Twitter is a cess-pit of trolling, outsmarting, and clout chasing but this week the platform was revitalised by the wrath of Wagatha Christie, formerly known as Colleen Rooney, against Rebekah Vardy’s account. 

Building on good news and vibes, we have yet another reason to stan Rihanna. She confirmed that she turned down the offer to headline February’s Super Bowl halftime show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, who is still blackballed from the NFL. Vogue’s cover interview, which makes Rihanna’s 25th cover for the fashion magazine, became controversial in its own right because the writer confessed in the article that she “didn’t have time” to prepare questions…for Rihanna. The Fenty queen is so in demand, Jamaicans are now trying to steal her for themselves. There has been a Twitter campaign to “kidnap Rihanna’s nationality” from Barbados. For more of Ri and her face, check out her  “visual autobiography” arriving this autumn.

Here’s what else went down this week.

A bittersweet atmosphere as Iranian women watch their first football match in decades

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution women in Iran have been banned from attending football matches where men are playing. Recently Iran saw the horrific case of a female football fan, known as “Blue Girl” (a reference to her team), who died after setting herself on fire in fear of being jailed for dressing as a boy in order to attend a match.

This led FIFA to threaten to suspend the Islamic republic over its male-only policy meaning that after 40 years, women could proudly enter the stadium as themselves. Though only 3,500 tickets of the 100,000 capacity were allocated to women. 

“We were happy to get the chance and simultaneously sad for all other girls who lost the chance of presence,” said Homa, 27 referring to Blue Girl. “Poor girl’s destiny made us more determined. It was a real paradoxical feeling that moment.”

Like Blue Girl, Homa had taken risks in order to see the game she loves. “Actually I (attended the matches) before in a shape of a boy,” she said.

While there were no tributes to Blue Girl at the match, Homa said the atmosphere was “exciting and full of life”. “On the other hand it is disappointing because we all knew it may not be permanent. There is no rule. It was just FIFA’s obligation. And it may change in future.”

There have been a few moments in recent years where it felt like women may be reintroduced into the crowds – namely in 2017 in the run up to the World Cup. A glitch saw the system allow women to buy tickets for the World Cup qualifying match against Syria. However all women’s tickets sold were eventually cancelled.

The Home Office ignored passport facial recognition technology failures on dark skin

The UK government gave new face-detection systems the go ahead for its passport checking service, despite being aware that it failed to work well for people with darker skin. 

The service went live in June 2016 despite the fact that “people with very light or very dark skin found it difficult to provide an acceptable passport photograph,” the department wrote in a document released in response to a freedom of information (FOI) by the New Scientist

Areeq Chowdhury, the head of Future Advocacy’s think tank on artificial intelligence, told gal-dem: “Rolling out a passport registration system which they know people of colour will struggle with is completely unacceptable.” He explained that the system needs to be tested on much more demographically diverse datasets in order to improve, and that “diversity is definitely an issue in the tech industry, but also, it seems, for the Civil Service.” If the governing bodies had more people of colour at the table, there is no way this technology would be “judged sufficient to deploy”, as the report read.

The response from the Home Office was: “We are determined to make the experience of uploading a digital photograph as simple as possible, and will continue working to improve this process for all of our customers.” 

It raises fresh concerns given that you may now need photo ID to vote. No doubt Priti Patel will put this to the top of her priority list, right underneath “incessant demonic smirking”. 


• Bumi Thomas, an acclaimed jazz artist born in Scotland, has been threatened with deportation to Nigeria within the next 14 days. Sign the petition to support her here.

• In heartbreaking news, the body of Joy Morgan, a 20-year-old black midwifery student who went missing in December, was found. Read her story.

BAME domestic abuse survivors are being failed by local housing authorities, forced to either sleep rough or return to their abusers, a project has uncovered.

• Eliud Kopchoge, a 34-year-old Kenyan athlete, became the first person in the world to run a marathon in under two hours.

Simone Biles, a 22-year-old black American Olympian, broke the all-time record for most medals by any gymnast after winning two golds at the world championships.

• A Korean hairstylist Hippie Buddha, who turns straight hair into 4c hairstyles over trap music has gone viral. His Instagram account is filled with Asian people donning traditional black hair styles like twists, locs, braids, dreadlocks, and in many cases full afros. It’s all at once impressive and extremely jarring. 

• Goldsmiths University’s racism report has found that a quarter of BAME students say they have faced racism from white staff or peers. We covered the powerful anti-racist student action that took place there.

• Mindy Kaling has spoken out about how the Emmy Awards tried to drop her from The Office’s list of producers. She was the only person of colour and woman on the list, and was the only producer considered for the cut when the Academy said the list was too long.

• Russian fake news campaigns used during the US election targeted “no single group…more than African Americans”, a new report states. A staggering 66% of Facebook adverts posted by the Russian troll farm contained a term related to race, often discouraging black people from voting and from supporting Hilary Clinton.

• Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, won this year’s Nobel peace prize for his efforts to achieve peace with neighbouring Eritrea. 

• Two men who say they were framed by a detective nearly 50 years ago have had their cases referred to the Court of Appeal. Winston Trew and Sterling Christie were among a group – known as the Oval Four – who were arrested at Oval Tube station in south London in March 1972 and beaten. They spent eight months in prison for assaulting a police officer and attempted theft.

• Hundreds of Kurdish protesters have marched through central London demanding the UK does more to end Turkey’s invasion of north-eastern Syria. ‘The whole world is watching and no-one is saying anything’

• Our fave Billy Porter is in talks to star in Sony’s Cinderella as the Fairy Godmother and I can’t think of anything more perfect.

Moment of the week

We’re feeling the ripples of the Stormzy effect as the number of black students going to the University of Cambridge has increased by around 50% since last year. gal-dem columnist Kimberley McIntosh spoke on BBC News about this, and the difficulties black students face at university.

This article is a part of gal-dem’s Race Review column, a weekly news roundup centring the issues faced by people of colour.