Iran Heralded for Allowing ‘Limited Number’ of Women to Watch Volleyball

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Following international outcry and protest over Iran’s detainment of Iranian-British national Ghoncheh Ghavami for attempting to attend a volleyball match between Iran and Italy last year, the government of Iran is reportedly “experimenting” with possibly allowing a select number of women to watch the Volleyball World League games in Tehran later this month. The move is yet to be officially endorsed.

Reformist politician and Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi told the Associated Press that women will be allowed to watch men’s matches solely in the sports of volleyball, basketball, handball, and tennis and that they will continue to be precluded from watching soccer, swimming, and wrestling matches.

The AP notes that the revealing nature of the uniforms at certain sporting events are the reason why senior clerics are opposed to having women attend them. Additionally, fans tend to use profanities when rooting for their teams; yet, Molaverdi told the AP that having women and families in the stadiums could be an incentive to create a more formal atmosphere that might even help curb the use of profane terms.

Molaverdi serves as part of the Cabinet of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who is touted as a “moderate.” She told the AP:

If it practically happens a few times, the concerns will be completely removed and it will be proven that allowing women to watch men’s sports matches is not problematic. Necessary measures need to be taken in order not to spread concern. This is an issue that can be easily managed so that it would not turn into a predicament.

Last week, the AP noted that some women were allowed to watch a men’s basketball game in the nation’s capital, Tehran. Hardliners have reportedly threatened to create problems to bar women from attending an upcoming June 19 volleyball match between the United States and Iran.

Women have been banned from attending sporting events in Iran ever since the Shah was overthrown and replaced by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the historic 1979 Islamic Revolution, although the AP notes that foreign women are permitted to attend matches of their national times when in Iran.

Ghavami served five months of a one year sentence for peacefully protesting against Iran’s ban on women attending a volleyball match between Iran and Italy last June. She was released in November after she paid a $30,000 bail to the Iranian government.

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