Gender discrimination in Iranian sports

On the International Olympic Committee site, there is a special category devoted to “promotion of women in sport”, which states the following: “The goal of gender equality is enshrined in the Olympic Charter, which compels the IOC to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels”. The IOC mission statement also states that International Sports Federations (ISF’s) are also bound by the code and responsible for their sport on the international level.

Let’s see how this plays out with Iran.

In the “I run Iran” international marathon in Tehran, female runners were forced to run on a different course than men, inside a stadium. Already in the FAQ of the tournament, the organizers adopted the Iranian discriminatory dress code, stating “women are obliged to wear a headscarf or sports bandana so that our hair will be covered. Please bear in mind that the length of the T-shirt cannot be too short (must cover your hips). You may not wear shorts or skirts showing bare legs”. A few courageous women ran outdoors. It remains to be seen if they will be punished. For men the instructions were different: “Short sleeves are ok…during sport activities rules are flexible and it is possible to ear running shorts”.

But even if you are indoors, it may not be enough to escape the Iranian wrath. Five female Iranian billiard players who competed in an international tournament in China were informed by the regime that they were banned from domestic and international competitions for one year for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code. Even Dorsa Derakhshani, an Iranian chess wiz, was banned from chess tournaments for a year for violating the dress code.

So, men can run in the streets, can play billiards and chess with without any restrictions while women head cover. But women can only run in closed environments, with long trousers and long T-shirts, and they have to cover their heads whether it be in chess or billiards or anything.

And what do the IOC and the numerous other international sports organizations have to say about this? Apparently, nothing.

Related articles:





On Volleyball, Women, Rouhani and the Regime


The issue of female spectators at volleyball games in Iran is a microcosm of Iranian politics in general:

  1. At first there is a status quo that is contested by the Iranian people who are seeking more freedom.
  2. The West backs the protesters in their cause in the hope for change.
  3. Rouhani voices support for the protesters.
  4. The Iranian authorities look as if they will concede to the demands of the protesters.
  5. Hardliners protest in their turn, promising blood, and the authorities renege on their decisions at the last minute.
  6. The protesters’ rights are curtailed while the West along with the helpless Rouhani, protest once again to no avail.

The bottom line is this: despite the protestations of the Iranian people, Western human rights groups, the international volleyball association and President Rouhani himself, the status quo has returned because a few hardliners promised blood.

If this is how Tehran acts over a volleyball game, why should anyone expect any more on the issue of executions or the nuclear deal?


Ghoncheh Ghavami – the “volleyball prisoner”

_79215113_7605b70b-c9ed-47eb-a00d-adc476875e34Last June, a young British-Iranian human rights activist by the name of Ghoncheh Ghavami, attended a volleyball game in Tehran and was subsequently arrested. She was released within hours and then rearrested to rot in jail for five months until her trial. At first, the accusations against Ghoncheh ranged from spreading propaganda, ties with the opposition and even spying. After six months, which included minimal communications with her lawyers and family and repeated hunger strikes, she was tried only for “propagating against the ruling system” and sentenced to one year in jail.

Meanwhile, many human rights activists and organizations, together with the international volleyball federation (FIVB), and even Rouhani himself, picked up her cause and called for her release. The FIVB went as far as to sign a resolution “not give Iran the right to host any future FIVB directly controlled events such as World Championships, especially under age, until the ban on women attending volleyball matches is lifted“. Finally, the courts acquiesced and on November 22nd, Ghoncheh was finally set free of jail but not out of Iran due to a travel ban for two years.

As far as everyone was concerned, it seemed that the authorities had capitulated: Ghoncheh was not free, but at least she wasn’t in jail and the authorities had agreed to sell tickets to women fans.


Protests on all sides

_83749168_83748411In January, the Iranian volleyball association had agreed to allow “some” women into the match. “Some”? The authorities didn’t specify but it was believed that 500 family members and foreign women (expats and diplomats) would be able to attend. In April 2015, the deputy minister of sports, Abdolhamid Ahmadi, reiterated that women would be allowed into stadiums.

The vagueness of the authorities sent Iranian social activists to protest and the FIVB reiterated its decision: “The FIVB is monitoring the situation and will liaise closely with the international federation of volleyball officials onsite, to monitor Iran’s conditions for hosting the 26th FIVB world league. The FIVB remains totally committed to ensuring inclusivity and the right of women to participate in sport on an equal basis all around the world“.

But, the protesters and the clout of FIVB were not enough to counter the shouts of the Ummat Hezbollah hardliners who handed out leaflets promising to take “a stand against the presence of prostitutes… in stadiums,” and promised that “this Friday there will be blood”. The tide was changing.

Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdifor, tried to take on the hardliners, protesting officially and through her facebook page that a “crowd of sanctimonious people who published one notice after another denouncing the modest and decent girls and women of this land who talked of confrontation used obscene and disgusting insults that only befit themselves“.


Iran vs. US…without women

1745763The long awaited match between Iran and the US was looming and the issue of the women fans still looked grim but somehow, the FIVB remained hopeful: “We hope that the government will allow Iranian women to cheer for their national team alongside their male counterparts“.

The hopes of the FIVB and fans were shattered as security agents stopped and checked cars for women inside, prohibiting the cars to continue up to the stadium. The match would be held, despite the promises over the past few months, without women in the stadium. Iran went on to beat the US, 3-0, breaking their 6-0 winning streak.

But Iran’s win was overshadowed by the issue if segregati
on and the inability of the FIVB to force Iran to open its stadiums to women.

The hardliners had prevailed and had done so despite the efforts of Rouhani and his administration.


The issue of the segregation of sports may seem minuscule besides issues such as executions, terrorism, oppression etc…which are part of Tehran’s regime. But in fact the issue mirrors the regime’s actions by hardliners to oppose any form of loosening up of the Shariah laws established in 1979. President Rouhani promised to make peace with the West, to lead a peaceful nuclear program, to create equality for women, to allow more political freedom etc…But the fact of the matter is that if Rouhani cannot convince the regime and the hardliners to allow some women into a sports stadium, how can he be trusted to carry out far bigger changes?


Related Posts:

Larijani’s speech at UPR nominated for Oscar


Viewing Javad Larijani’s speech at the Universal Periodic Review is not easy to do – Iran’s Human Rights chief filled his speech with self-righteousness, generalizations and justifications coming off as if there are no human rights problems in Iran…at all.

Watching it three times in succession maked it easier to understand: Larijani’s speech is just too good to be true and he is simply lying.


Lie after lie after lie…

Here are a few of Larijani’s best lines:

  • Larijani: Iran continues to “fully participate” for the “promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Iran promotes human rights? Iran was ranked 167th with a 36% average by the International Human Rights Rank Indicator in 2013 – Iran still has a long way to go!
  • Larijani: Since the last report, Iran has “constantly worked for further promotion and protection of human rights”.
    Iran24/07: Constantly worked? Since its last UPR, Iran received 212 recommendations, accepted 126 (59%) and implemented only 5 (2%)…in 4 years!
  • Larijani: “The will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government”.
    Iran 24/07: The will of the people? How about the will of the people who elected three political leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard) who are still under house arrest after 4 years?!
  • Larijani: Tehran “genuinely and meaningfully” involves its citizens “without any discrimination of any kind”.
    Iran 24/07: Without any discrimination? The regime systematically discriminates on the basis of gender (in sports stadiums, municipality offices…), religion (over 300 individuals in prison because of their religion), age (girls married at the age of 9), sexual orientation (capital punishment for gays) etc…
  • Larijani: Baha’is enjoy all the possibilities/privileges of Iranian citizens.
    Iran 24/07: Bahai’s enjoy rights? Bahai’s, like Christians and Kurds are treated like Iranians as long as they do not preach their faith and ideals – once they do that, they are systematically persecuted by the states and vigilantes for trumped charges of espionage!
  • Larijani: Iran creates and maintains the “necessary measures for the protection of the rights of the vulnerable groups” (especially women and children).
    Iran 24/07: Protecting women? The latest spree of acid attacks for “bad hijab” were sparked by a law, passed in the Iranian parliament to enforce “enjoining good and forbidding wrong” by empowering civilian vigilantes!
  • Larijani: There are no forced legal marriages of children in Iran.
    Iran 24/07: No forced marriages? The legal age for marriage in Iran is 13 but girls as young as 9 can be married with permission from a court –Does Larijani want us to believe that all the 40,635 brides under 15 (including 1,537 under 10) married between March 2012 and March 2013 really consent to their marriages?!
  • Larijani: Iran adheres to a full separation of powers (executive, legislature, judiciary).
    Iran 24/07: Full separation? The IRGC which is the real basis of power in Iran is active in all three allowing the IRGC the power to circumvent the law repeatedly just as they did with Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard!
  • Larijani: All Iranian nationals are “equal before the law”, “have the right to choose their own lawyers” and can count on “the presumption of innocence”.
    Iran 24/07: Rights to lawyers and innocent until proven guilty? Ask Jason Rezaian, a WaPo reporter, or Goncheh Gavami, a women’s rights activist – both were picked up and thrown into solitary confinement with limited access to their lawyers on trumped-up charges of espionage…and are still in jail!
  • Larijani: Iran prohibits the use of torture and arbitrary arrest.
    Iran 24/07: No torture or arbitrary arrests? Just google “Iran torture” to get an idea – people still get nabbed from their houses/offices and are thrown into jails where they are treated to abuse, beatings, rape and torture – Reyhaneh Jabbari herself was thrown into solitary confinement and tortured in an effort to get her to confess!
  • Larijani: Iran has “continuously worked for the promotion of human rights ” (with the UN).
    Iran 24/07: Working with the UN? Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran has not been allowed into Iran since taking office in 2011 because of accusations by Iran that his reports were unfair and political…Is that how Iran “cooperates” with the UN?!
  • Larijani: The imposition of (unjustified and unfair) sanctions in Iran has created obstacles to human rights.
    Iran 24/07: Unjustified and unfair? The responsibility for the sanctions lie wholly on Iran’s continuous strategy of evasion, lies, lack of transparency and non-adherence to IAEA policies and requests in its nuclear program including denying access to IAEA inspectors until today!
  • Larijani: Iran “adheres to renouncement of all forms of violence” and calls for unity in “combatting all forms of terrorism and extremism”.
    Iran 24/07: Renouncing violence and battling terrorism? When Larijani, like other Iranian leaders talk about fighting terrorism they conveniently “forget” that Iran supports state-sanctioned terrorism through its Qods forces and proxy terrorist organizations (Hezbollah and others) in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries!


What to expect? More lies…

Larijani and all the top leaders in the regime understand the rules of the game well: when in trouble, lie, conceal and gain time.

Larijani can say whatever he likes because he knows that nobody can really check up on him – especially since he banned the Shaheed from entering Iran.

And in a way, this method of lying and concealing resonates through all the interactions between the regime and the rest of the world in the fields of human rights, nuclear programs, military operations, terrorism etc…

Lie, conceal and gain time.

Gender Segregation in Iran Lands British Iranian Woman in Jail

ghoncheh ghavami

Goncheh Gavami, a 25 year old British Iranian woman is rotting away in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since June 2014. Why? Because she went along with some other women activists to a gender segregated stadium to see a volley ball game between Iran and Italy. Gavami was in Tehran campaigning for women’s rights after being convinced that Rouhani’s presidency signaled change. The irony? The stadium is called “Azadi” which means “freedom” in Persian.

Help free Gavami by sponsoring the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” petition or by liking/sharing the “Free Ghoncheh Ghavami” fan page.


Previous posts on gender segregation: