Gender Apartheid Invades Volleyball in Iran
The IOC was – ultimately – rigid in condemning racial apartheid in South Africa and, early this year,
gay rights oppression in Russia prior to Sochi’s Winter Games. The IOC now has the moral duty to
be as stringent regarding gender apartheid in Iran.
President Thomas Bach, unequivocal in demanding equality of sexual orientation legislation
within the Olympic Movement, needs to adopt the same hard-line principle over Iran’s imprisonment
of Ghoncheh Ghavami, the British-based Iranian law student sentenced to a year in jail for attempting
to attend a men’s volleyball match. Have the ayatollahs overlooked that we have all been given birth
by a woman?
Ary Graca, Brazilian president of FIVB, the international volleyball federation, has apparently
written to Iran’s state president Hassan Rouhani – as has the IOC – requesting Ghavami’s release,
from this grotesque judgment imposed for wishing to attend a match between Iran and Italy in Tehran
on June 20, then being held in prison until a hearing on October 14.
Addressing the FIVB Congress two days ago, Graca irrelevantly stated: “We never normally
seek to interfere with the laws of any country, but in accord with the Olympic Charter, FIVB is
committed to inclusivity.”
Well, precisely. Forget Mr Rouhani. Neanderthal Iranian laws in this issue are beside the
point. International sport, under the leadership of the IOC, has its own humanitarian and legally
recognised laws, and acts by those, scrutinised and upheld by an independent Court of Arbitration for
Sport (CAS). If Iran cannot accept this, go play elsewhere.
In his pledge to modernise and adjust the Olympic Games, this is a moment for Bach to
demonstrate, in the calmest manner, that the IOC Charter is inalienable. The Ethics Commission
must advise Iran’s NOC that if it fails to honour gender equality within national federations, it will
itself become ineligible for Olympic participation.
An online petition for Ghavami’s freedom has been signed by three-quarters of a million
people, over a hundred women’s recognised organisations protesting to FIVB, emotions enflamed by
Graca saying he would welcome a bid to host the World Championships of 2018 by Iran, already
elected to host the Asian Men’s Championships of 2015 by the Asian Federation. Gender segregation
was extended to volleyball in Iran after 25 years’ prohibition of women attending football.
If, as has been alleged, Ghavami was present at the Azadi Stadium “to promote political
propaganda”, the nature and extent of that accusation should be properly clarified for consideration by the Ethics Commission before imposing any threatened suspension of the NOC.
Only a single woman is visibly abused, but millions potentially. The will of the IOC is under
This article was republished with permission from the editor and publisher of the Sport Intern, Karl Heinz-Huba.