Iran banned women from attending the International Beach Volleyball Championships that ended on February 19, the world volleyball governing body said.
The International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) said allowing women to attend the five-day competition at Iran’s Kish Island had been a condition of its decision to let the Iranian volleyball federation host the men’s tournament for the first time.
Female fans are traditionally barred from attending male-only sports matches in Iran.
The Associated Press quoted an FIVB spokesman, Richard Baker, as saying that “misunderstandings with regard to security” in Iran were to blame for preventing female spectators to enter the stadium. He said that women could watch games from a cafe overlooking the main court.
Human Rights Watch organized a digital advocacy campaign to draw public attention to Tehran’s decision.
The ban on women’s attendance violates the “Fourth Fundamental Principle” — on nondiscrimination — of the FIVB’s own constitution, Human Rights Watch said ahead of the beach volleyball event.
According to HRW, the 2012 ban on women’s attendance at men’s volleyball matches followed a decision by the Iranian Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs to extend the 1979 ban on women attending games in soccer stadiums.
The ban came to worldwide attention in 2014 when Iran banned Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman, from a men’s volleyball match between Iran and Italy.
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She was detained for several hours and then released but was arrested again a few days later and sentenced to a year in prison for “propagating against the ruling system.” Ghavami was freed on bail pending an appeal.