An Iranian woman protested a ban on her countrywomen watching sports events live at an Olympic men’s volleyball match between Egypt and Iran this week. Security officials attempted to remove Darya Safai from the event after she unveiled a banner reading, “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums.”
On Sunday, Safai, an Iranian activist who resides in Belgium, attended the event at the Maracanazinho arena where the match between Iran and Egypt was being held. She was seated in the front row as the match began. When she unveiled her banner and a shirt she was wearing with the same message, “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums,” security officials came to her and asked that she leave or be removed from the stadium forcefully.
As she continued to refuse to leave, Safai began to weep, proclaiming, “It hurts.” After standing for several minutes, security officials let Safai stay and continue to watch the match.
Following her very public display in defense of women’s rights, Safai began to receive an outpouring of support from women. According to the Independent, “Following the ordeal in Rio, Ms Safai was flooded with support on social media. One Facebook user wrote: ‘No woman should be treated like that. I admire you and everything you do.'” The Independent also reported that “another woman said: ‘Thanks for going to Brazil, thanks for being an Iranian voice, you are a winner and we are proud of you.'”
Safai told the Independent in an interview about her ordeal: “They said [to] us they didn’t want the sign in front of the cameras and they asked us to leave. They even tried to impress me with military people,” Safai continued. “This is not the first time I had this experience, but I won’t give up because that’s what Iranian women do, they keep fighting for their rights.”
Safai also pointed out:
The Olympic Spirit, which is against discrimination, is what Iranian women need in their country.
It should [be] the right of everyone, men AND women, to attend a sports game. It is a pity that women have to travel to Brazil to watch and cheer for their national team.
Safai revealed that this is not the last match she plans to interrupt in Rio. She plans to take similar stands this week at other matches she will attend.