Rouhani Minister Expresses Outrage that Women Were Banned from Attending Iran-US Volleyball Match
Molaverdi Decries Hypocrisy of Policies toward Women on her Facebook Page
Hours after women were denied entry to the volleyball game between Iran’s and the United States’ national teams on June 19, 2015 at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, Rouhani’s Vice President for Women’s and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, criticized those in power who have worked to ban women’s presence in sports stadiums, particularly volleyball games, in a direct and forceful statement posted on her Facebook page.
Molaverdi noted that such games had never been banned to women until two years ago, but now women’s presence in the stadiums was seen as a “vice.”
On her Facebook page Molaverdi wrote, “This subject was finally put on top of the list of vices, without regard for the fact that we walk by bigger vices and bend our heads, lest our consciences suffer. The life of 5,000 homeless women in Tehran; statistics that indicate 9% of all drug addicts are women, doubled over the past five years; the 32% death rate of women due to addiction; the prevalence of depression [among women] and the drop of addiction age to 13 among girls; and the change of their drug consumption patterns from traditional drugs to industrial and psychedelic substances that lead to fake enjoyment, excitement, and happiness; the existence of two million child laborers in the country, etc., are just the tip of the iceberg.”.
Eyewitnesses told the Campaign that for several hours before and during the game, police agents stopped all cars with female drivers or passengers on the streets leading to the stadium, and would not allow them to proceed forward.
“All streets around the stadium were full of security and police agents, especially female agents. I never thought there are so many female agents. On all the streets leading to the stadium parking lot, agents stopped all cars that had female passengers and would not allow the cars to drive forward; they made the drivers turn around and leave. Only cars with male drivers and passengers were allowed to proceed,” a female eyewitness told the Campaign.
“It was totally unnecessary for the agents to search the cars and to force the women to return. Women could not have entered the stadium by car anyway. They would have had to walk and enter the gate, which would have been prevented anyway. Such measures were more to insult and intimidate women. Many of the women in the cars tonight had no intention of going to the stadium and they were only passing through,” added the witness.
“Women were afraid there would be more [cases like] Ghoncheh Ghavami’s [who was] prosecuted by the Judicary [earlier] this year. Last year, Ghoncheh Ghavami was arrested just because she wanted to watch the Iran-Italy volleyball game, and she was sentenced to one year in prison. [Vice President] Molaverdi said repeatedly that women would be allowed to attend the games this year, but she kept silent and abandoned the women, too,” said the eyewitness.
On June 1, Shahindokht Molaverdi told Shargh Daily that a document authorizing admission of women into volleyball games had been signed. On the same evening, Iran’s state television announced the same news in its news program. The news was widely shared and published on the Internet, and many were hopeful about seeing women in stadiums this year.
Yet on June 8, the vigilante group Ansar Hezbollah, invited “the Hezbollah Ummah” (the community of Hezbollah) to prevent women’s entry into Azadi Stadium on June 19, with their “bloody presence.”
Iran’s Volleyball Federation released a statement on June 17, forbidding women from entering the stadium during the Iran-US volleyball game.
Tasnim News, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, wrote on the morning of June 19 that Iran’s Mounted Police Force would be present at the stadium to prevent “any behavior that would break the norms.” The article included a photograph of the Mounted Police Force at the Azadi Stadium, and wrote that the Police Special Unit will be at and around the Azadi Sports Stadium with “its new uniforms and equipment, appropriate to its mission.” None of the eyewitnesses who spoke to the Campaign reported seeing the Mounted Police at or around the stadium, however.
ISNA (the Iranian Student News Agency) reported that female journalists were also kept from entering the stadium.