130 Women Sign Letter to Protest Women Barred From Entering Azadi Stadium
More then 130 women’s rights activists have asked the President of the International Volleyball Federation to protect the right of Iranian women to enter sports stadiums and attend volleyball matches. “We demand an end to gender discrimination in the sports stadiums and believe that the Iranian society is not an island isolated from the rest of the planet. The Iranian sports federations must end their selective disobedience which is neither consistent with the international regulations of the games, nor with the Iranian people’s culture and wishes,” the open letter stated.
The letter, signed by 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi and many other women’s rights activists, notes that the Iranian Volleyball Federation has attempted to deceive the international public opinion by placing female employees of the Federation as spectators inside the stadium during matches in order to claim that Iranian women are present at the games, while female fans have in fact been kept from attending the games.
Iranian police and security agents prevented women from attending any of the World League volleyball matches between Iran, Brazil, Italy, and Poland. At the first game of the League on June 13, in which Iran played Brazil, Iranian women were prevented from entering the Azadi stadium in Tehran even as Brazilian women were allowed to attend and cheer their team. On June 20, 2014, during the Iran-Italy match, the police harassed, physically assaulted, and arrested several women who were attempting to enter the stadium and attend the game, including a female journalist who had gone to the stadium to report on the match.
Jila Baniyaghoub, a journalist present at the stadium reported on her Facebook page that: “The Stadium was full of anti-riot agents and police vehicles. A large number of police were in constant motion in the paths leading to the stadium and prevented women from gathering. This time their treatment with the women and their male supporters was more violent.” She noted that the police were also cracking down on the men who were accompanying the women. “Several times, the men who were supporting the women were beaten and insulted and several of them were arrested. They put some of the women inside the police vans and took them away,” Baniyaghoub reported.
Fatemeh Jamalpour, the sports reporter for Shargh Newspaper wrote in her Facebook page: “The plainclothes agent jumps in front of my car and stops it. He says ‘get off; I will have to check your identity.’ I get off and give my card to him again. He takes it and asks the van to move forward and says ‘this lady is going to the detention center.’ I ask ‘on what charges? Why?’ He yells and says ‘Get her. Don’t resist.’ And a few moments later, I am lying on the floor, and they are slapping me on my face. My Islamic robe and my purse are torn and…next is 6 hours in detention.”
Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, Vice President of Women’s Affairs in the Rouhani cabinet told Mehr News Agency on June 17 that the President had ordered an investigation into the matter of women’s attendance at the volleyball matches.
Ary Graça, head of the International Volleyball Federation, responded to a letter from ILNA about the ban on women’s attendance at the matches by saying that members of the World Volleyball League will address the issue in their next meeting. The Volleyball World League will end on July 7, 2014.