Activists Ask FIFA to Intervene to End Iran’s Ban on Women in Stadiums
In a letter addressed to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Swiss-based organization responsible for administering the World Cup soccer competitions, 190 Iranian activists have asked FIFA to suspend Iran’s membership in FIFA, in response to the Iranian government’s ban on the presence of Iranian women in soccer stadiums.
The letter, addressed to FIFA chief, Sepp Blatter, and signed by prominent Iranian activists such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, Parastou Forouhar, Mohammad Maleki, and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, states that “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s refusal to allow Iranian women into stadiums to watch soccer matches, a practice started in 1982, has moved us to seek your assistance as the highest official of FIFA, towards removal of this unfair ban.”
The signatories to the letter wrote, “We ask FIFA to suspend the membership of the Islamic Republic of Iran based on Article 3 of its Articles of Association, or at least, to follow the commended 2014 action of the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) to ban Iran from hosting any competitions, and to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from holding any FIFA-organized sports events in Iran.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy to deprive women from attending soccer games is known to the world. No one should be banned from attending soccer or volleyball games in sports stadiums based on gender. No one should be detained on the charge of wanting to watch a soccer or a volleyball game at a stadium, or be beaten for it,” added the activists in the letter.
This reference in the letter was to the imprisonment of Ghoncheh Ghavami in June 2014 for five months, much of this time in solitary confinement, after she attempted to enter a Tehran sports stadium to attend a match, until she was released on bail on November 22, 2014, and to the physical assault and arrests of women by security guards on June 20, 2014 after they had tried to enter the stadium to watch the World League volleyball match between Iran and Italy.
“Employing such policies against women is morally wrong, discriminatory, and against the spirit and Articles of Association of FIFA, and is not consistent with the spirit of the laws governing Switzerland and international laws. FIFA has a duty to oppose all types of discrimination and bias, including banning women from watching soccer matches in stadiums,” stated the letter.
Referring to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, approved in 1997, the signatories added, “Any type of deprivation of fundamental rights or restricting such rights based on gender, aimed to or resulting in reduced access of women to sports” is prohibited.