The woman jailed in Iran for trying to watch a men’s volleyball match is now facing fresh charges against her.
Ghoncheh Ghavami, the 25 year old law graduate from Shepherd’s Bush in London, was arrested in Tehran as she participated in a peaceful protest against the ban on women attending men’s sports events.
But now the Revolutionary Guard are intent on charging Ghavami with spying, according to The Times. This could result in her spending six years in jail on top of the year she is already serving for “spreading propaganda against the state”.
It has been reported that after Ms Ghavami was moved to a new jail south of Tehran, and her parents have been refused access to see her.They were allowed to talk to her by phone and were then sent away.
“It was heart-breaking to be so close and not see her. She is teaching English to the other women in her room. Even now she is more concerned with the plight of other people than herself,” Soosan Moshtaghian, her mother, said in a statement yesterday.
There is a battle going on in Tehran between factions – some moderates some hard line conservatives. It has become a dangerous place for women to live, with a number of horrific acid attacks taking place against women deemed to be ‘incorrectly veiled’.
It is the hardline faction who have been blamed for these acid attacks who are calling for a tougher prison sentence for the Londoner. At the same time, the moderates are aware of the international outrage which has been sparked after a girl was thrown in jail for nothing more than attending a sporting fixture.
Her family are distraught at the new rumours and have called on the British government to put pressure on Tehran to help Ghoncheh. Her brother Iman has said that his sister “has been a pawn in a wider political game.”
“We are very scared” he added. “The Revolutionary Guard never knows how to back down. They were very unhappy when all she got was a year in jail. They’re determined to make an example of her.”
This view stems from Ms Ghavami being singled out by the Iranian authorities back in the summer. She attended the volley ball match with about 20 women and was moved to a maximum-security wing of the Evin prison, run by the notorious Revolutionary Guard.
It is believed that she is considered a prize because she is a Westerner, as Iran continues to struggle to find its place in international society.
It seems that the Revolutionary Guard are determined to make an example of the law graduate and prosecutors, who originally refused to consider new charges against Ms Ghavami, have bowed to pressure from their intense lobbying.
She was transferred to an open women’s prison in Varamin, south of Tehran, last week and has abandoned the hunger strike she was on. But her brother says that things are “much worse” even in the lower security jail.
“The food is terrible, the water undrinkable. She is much weaker,” her brother said.
Understandably, the family wants tougher action from the British government to secure Ms Ghavami’s release but even with negotiations on Iran’s nuclear plans the domestic infighting makes the diplomatic task of securing her release or stopping these new charges very difficult.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said yesterday: “We are concerned that the outcome of Ghoncheh Ghavami’s case is still unclear, and by reports that she may be facing new charges. We urge the Iranian judiciary to follow due process.”
Following the arrest and conviction of Ghoncheh Ghavami, Volleyball’s international governing body has banned Iran from hosting international matches while they insist women are unable to attend. They tripped Iran of the right to host the under-19 world championships next year, handing the tournament to Argentina.
The President of Iranian Volleyball, instead of realising this was the result of international outrage, decided to blame a ‘zionist lobby’.