Women of Iran Fighting for the Right to Attend Sporting Events

Rising Team - Friday, May 08, 2015
by Rhaeadr Ryan

I am a senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz graduating in June with a B.A. in Philosophy. Although I was drawn to many different subjects, most predominantly psychology and politics, I was eventually most compelled by the challenge that Philosophy provided.

I was born in New York City, where I spent my early childhood, before moving to British Columbia, Canada. I later moved to Seattle Washington and also lived in Spain during my sophomore year of high school. 

Throughout my life I have spent large amounts of time at Learning Institutions such as Hollyhock (in BC, Canada) and Esalen Institute (in Big Sur, California). It is these havens of learning and transformation that have most inspired me to be a force of positive change in the world.

The opportunity to work for Rising International was presented to me through a social change class at UCSC. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone at Rising and have found it very interesting learning about the inspiring work they are doing. 

This is my first blog….so far I have loved the process!

Women of Iran Fighting for the Right to Attend Sporting Events

According to a plethora of news headlines around the world, the ban against women attending major sporting events in Iran has been lifted! ….or is this just false advertising?

On first glance this seems like a positive step, both for Iran as a country and for the world as a whole in regards to women’s rights. I quickly realized however that further detective work was needed in order to get to the truth of the matter. In reality, all one has to do is click and actually read (what a concept) one of these articles in order to learn that the ban has only been minimally eased, not lifted—which to me sounds alarmingly like a PR campaign, or rather an attempt by Iran to get some positive media attention in the face of so much recent negative attention.

The ban, which came into effect after the Iranian revolution of 1979, prevented women from attending major sporting events. The advocates of the ban appealed to their religion in claiming that it was “un-Islamic” for there to be both women and men “mixing” at these big events. Imagine the outrage if such a ban was implemented in the United States….would we see a total revolution?

Thankfully, due to growing public support over the last ten years, a big movement has arisen to abolish this outdated and highly discriminatory ban which unfairly prohibits women from seeing the major sporting events in their own country.

It seems that the engine powering the efforts to remove the ban is in large part fueled by the desire to attend football matches, especially the national team matches. This has prompted Iranian activists to call on FIFA (the world football governing body).

FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently answered that call as he implored Iranian officials to remove the despicable ban. In the March 6th edition of FIFA Weekly, he explained how upon visiting Iran years ago he was greeted by these strange restrictions. He apparently discussed the ban with President Hassan Rouhani and was also apparently assured that the ban would be lifted shortly.  Of course the ban was not lifted shortly.

There are additional points of interest. First of all, Iran’s bid to host the Asia Cup in 2019 was rejected. I’m sure the fact that women of any country couldn’t attend the games might have had some impact in that case. Also of interest is the arrest of an English-Iranian woman after she demanded to be allowed to attend a men’s volleyball game. She was sentenced to one year in prison, but was released after five months. Just think about that for a moment; one whole year in prison, just for wanting to attend a volleyball game!  This is also of special interest as the ban was eased just one day after her release. (The ban was altered to allow for indoor sporting such as volleyball).

Now, I’m sure some would point to this as a step in the right direction. However it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. The “new ban” allows women to attend indoor sporting events but it still does not allow women to attend anything outdoors, which means the biggest attraction of all, football matches, are still off limits.

Deputy Sports Minister, Abdul Hamid Ahmadi, was asked why the ban was only partially lifted as opposed to being abolished completely. His excuse clearly illustrates just how removed from the western world Iran is, as he claimed that families and women are simply not interested in attending outdoor events, and that these outdoor sports are only related to men.

Only related to men? What does that even mean exactly Mr. Ahmadi?

The fact of the matter is, women are allowed to play soccer in Iran. In fact they even have a women’s national team. I think it is safe to say that many women clearly relate to football in some way, not just in Iran but all over the world, and yet the Deputy Sports Minister still claims that football (or any other outdoor sport) doesn’t relate to women or families…

The real question is; when will Iran decide to become part of the world? If they would only make the decision to step into the world. If they could only realize they must join in with the world, and become a part of the world community, then maybe they could prosper, maybe they could thrive AND maybe Iranian women could have what they deserve: an equal opportunity to attend sporting events of their choosing. 

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