CHRI – After being denied entry into Iran’s sports stadiums since 2012, hundreds of women were allowed inside Tehran’s 12,000-seat Azadi Arena on June 9, 2017 to watch a FIVB World Volleyball League match between Iran and Belgium.
However, police turned dozens of other women who had purchased tickets for the game away at the entrance, revealing that Iran’s ban on female spectators in sports arenas remains in place.
Some women opined that the brief reprieve from the ban was only a show by the Iranian government intended to appease FIVB, which has demanded that Iran end its discriminatory policy against female sports fans or no longer be allowed to host international matches.
“We had heard that a few women were going to be allowed into the arena so that the authorities could claim they were not banning women,” a female sports writer in Tehran, who asked not to be identified, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “But the official website that offered tickets said there were none for women just minutes after they went on sale. I think this was a trick to silence women.”
Shaghayegh Yazdani, who’s married to the Iranian team’s physiotherapist, stated on her Telegram channel that she was allowed in because of her husband.
“Unfortunately, the arena is still not open to all women,” she wrote on June 10. “Entry is permitted only for the wives and family members of national team players whose names have been submitted to the (Volleyball) Federation.”
She continued: “This discrimination upsets me. It upsets me that I was able to watch my favorite sport because of my husband while my friends, some of whom are bigger fans than I, are denied this right. I am very sorry. I would like to see all women who love volleyball to have the right to enter arenas. I hope one day these acts of discrimination will end and all women will be treated equality.”
In June 2015, CHRI wrote a letter to President Hassan Rouhani calling on him “to ensure full female participation as spectators” by “immediately repealing the ban on women’s attendance at sports stadiums and events in place since 2012.”
Discriminatory policies are not part of the FIVB’s “Fundamental Principles,” which member nations are obliged to observe. The International Olympic Committee’s goals for 2020 meanwhile call for the strengthening “the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism by including non-discrimination of sexual orientation in the Olympic Charter.”
During his May 2017 second-term presidential campaign, newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani promised to work towards ending the ban on female spectators in Iranian sports arenas.
“What we are saying is very clear: We will not accept gender discrimination. We will not accept gender tyranny,” said Rouhani to thousands of male and female supporters at a campaign rally in Shiroudi Stadium in Tehran on May 9.
Rouhani’s plan of action for his second term government includes a pledge (number 14) to “Try to facilitate the presence of women in sport arenas.”
Nevertheless, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported on June 9 that even though there were plenty of empty seats, many female fans who had purchased tickets were denied entry at the June 9 match.
Elaheh Hamidikia, the parliamentary correspondent for the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), tweeted: “There were 300 seats allocated for women for the volleyball match between Iran and Belgium national teams at Azadi Arena, but only 30 tickets were sold.”
Tickets for the June 9 volleyball game were available for sale online as of June 6. However, when trying to make purchases for seats in the female section, visitors saw a pop-up window claiming they were sold out.
Parvaneh Salahshouri, the leader of the women’s faction in Parliament, meanwhile told a reporter from the reformist Shargh newspaper on June 6 that she had turned down an offer for free tickets.
“While we were trying to follow up on the matter of getting women into the arena, the authorities invited me to attend with 10 guests, but I said no,” she said.
Supporters of ending the ban on female spectators in Iranian sports stadiums participated in a Twitter Storm on June 6, 2017 using the hashtag 49%, a reference to women making up 49 percent of Iran’s population.
Eighty percent of those tweets originated from accounts in Iran, according to investigations by CHRI.