Iran’s volleyball ban : Half the freedom

And the idea to denounce Sardar Azmoun and Ashkan Dejagah, a Berlin-born soccer player, for their tattoos in front of the soccer federation's in-house ethics commission backfired in spectacular fashion. The federation's ethics chief was blamed for the “negative reports in foreign media”. The times seemed ripe for a chat with reformists and moderates on the issue of women in sports.

„Women share half the freedom“: Protest at an international soccer game between Iran and Bosnia-Hercegovina in Tehran 2006

Yet, the FIVB awarded Davarsani’s federation with the right to host the beach volleyball event, even though he had broken his promise to the FIVB also. At the same time, the international body tirelessly promotes its goal to have families at volleyball matches. One of the FIVB’s goals is to turn the game into the „No.1 sports entertainment in the world for families“ by 2020. As if this somehow compensates for the discrimination of single women or widows or women who just feel like watching a match with a girlfriend.

The FIVB is now consulting with an expatriate Iranian woman. And Richard Baker says, he „should think“ the federation would revise its policy if the Iranians were not true to their word on Kish.

„Dear volleyball fan“

Minky Worden deplores the situation for Iranian women under the current laws. “Women are somehow supposed to find out if they get in or get arrested? Volleyball is supposed to be fun and exciting. If the excitement is down to the question whether you get arrested or not, that’s not fun at all. It’s an Olympic year. Gender equality is one of IOC president Thomas Bach’s central issues. The FIVB’s policy to reward rule breakingessentially runs counter to Bach’s Olympic agenda 2020.”

Indeed, Bach’s International Olympic Committee is not delighted by the FIVB. In 2014, the FIVB’s president, Ary Graça of Brazil, had replied to a letter by Open Stadiums: “Dear Volleyball fan, I thank you for your e-mail concerning the refusal of the authorities to allow women to enter the Azadi stadium to watch the World League match in Teheran. I am pleased to note your interest and the interest of many Iranian women in our beloved sport. For your information, this issue will be on the agenda of the World League council at its meeting next month and will therefore be discussed by its members.”

But Graça had not replied directly to Open Stadiums, he had sent his mail to the Iranian Labour News Agency. Sara and her friends felt as if Graça tried to sell them down the river. A sentiment intensifying by the month in the absence of further feedback from the FIVB, although the Iranian women sent the FIVB hundreds of alerts.

The IOC is well informed on the matter, with Olympic Games director Christophe Dubi taking particular interest in the issue. But the IOC’s public statements must be meticulously vivisected to extract the criticism: “The IOC is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation as stated in the Olympic Charter. The IOC encourages all its stakeholders, including International Federations, to uphold the principles of the Olympic Charter at their own events, which they are running autonomously. We understand that the FIVB is following up closely on this issue and has received assurances from local organisers in Iran that the events of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour to be held in February in Kish Islands will be open to all’, an IOC spokesperson wrote. Pressure? Well, yes. In the mildest dose possible.

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