Iran plans to allow some women to watch the Volleyball World League games to be held in Tehran later this month, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs said. Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi said the government would allow a limited number of women to attend the men’s games despite opposition from hardliners.
Molaverdi said the women who would be allowed to attend the matches primarily belong to the families of the players taking part in the matches. “If it practically happens a few times, the concerns will be completely removed and it will be proven that allowing women to watch men's sports matches is not problematic," NBC News quoted the reformist politician as saying.
Molaverdi, added women still would not be allowed to watch wrestling, swimming and soccer but can watch games like basketball, handball, volleyball and tennis.
The decision draws attention to the Islamic republic's strict rules for women watching men’s matches. Iran jailed an Iranian-British woman last year for attending a men’s volleyball game. Ghoncheh Ghavami, 26, spent five months in prison in Tehran after attending a men’s game as a means of protest. The Guardian reported Ghavami was released but subjected to a travel ban.
Iran has banned women from sports matches since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Senior clerics in the country are against women attending male sporting events because they require men to be dressed in revealing clothes. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, however, is known for his moderate religious views.
Women from foreign countries, nevertheless, are allowed to attend male sporting events involving their countries. The government’s decision to allow Iranian women at male sporting events may be viewed as a significant step even though the ban only is being lifted partially.
The patriarchal system in Iran has recently been challenged by a number of women’s rights movements. “My Stealthy Freedom” movement on Facebook encouraged Iranian women to post their photos without headscarves. Women in Iran are legally banned to appear in public without covering their head.