Guess what you won’t find in Tehran’s Freedom Stadium? That’s right: freedom. If you’ve been following our blog, that shouldn’t be news to you – we pointed out the irony in naming a stadium Freedom, then denying women the freedom to watch sports matches, back in June.
But now, the struggle for freedom for women in Iranian stadiums has taken on a new dimension with the launch of a new campaign, which can be accessed on Twitter @OpenStadiums and on Facebook at Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums – a page featuring female sports fans with radiant smiles, Iranian flags painted on their cheeks, and “LET IRANIAN WOMEN ENTER THEIR STADIUMS” emblazoned on their t-shirts.
The campaign recently received a vote of confidence and support from the New York Times-associated Women in the World, which declared in a recently-published piece that while Iran’s victories in volleyball, a national sport, are a cause for pride, its decision to ban “half of the country’s population” from the bleachers should be a cause for shame for the Iranian Volleyball Federation (and, no doubt, the nation).
The article, written by Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch, pointed out that “this summer, as world attention followed every twist and turn of Iran’s nuclear negotiations, within the country a battle for women’s rights played out” – going “largely unnoticed by the global media.”
Worden dug deeper than most reports on the subject, finding the roots of the volleyball ban in a much earlier ban on women in soccer stadiums, which has been in place since after the Islamic Revolution and has been allowed to “stand unchallenged for decades” by FIFA – paving the way for more discrimination in the form of the volleyball ban, enacted by hardliners in 2012. Here, too, the international governing body – called FIVB – did not intervene.
In both cases, according to Worden, the blame and shame are not Iran’s alone; rather, FIVB must also be blamed for “flunking a key test” – namely, enforcing its own principles, which prohibit discrimination. Back in July, Human Rights Watch demanded that the governing body be penalized on these grounds; now, as the campaign for equal rights for female spectators gains traction on the web, perhaps that demand will be answered.