Iranian women will now be allowed to attend major sporting events, Iran officials announced on Saturday.
Although the new policy still holds barriers for women attending specific sports—those considered to be more “masculine” such as wrestling or swimming—this announcement reverses an antiquated rule that forbid women to watch matches attended by men.
Abdolhamid Ahmadi, the deputy minister for sports, told the state news agency on Saturday that the country’s national Security Council had approved a government proposal to allow women to watch games this year. It is still not clear which sports women can watch, but they are likely to include basketball and volleyball. In these stadiums, women will have special assigned seating, with mixed seating available for families.
This issue gained international attention last summer when a young British-Iranian woman was jailed for attempting to watch a men’s volleyball match. 25-year-old Ghocheh Ghavami was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail and a two-year travel ban, before she was released on bail after five months in prison. Last week, an appeals court dismissed the charges against Ghavami.
Ghavami and other activists are hopeful for what this change could mean for women in Iran. 38-year-old women’s rights activist Najiyeh Allahdad celebrated this small victory. “We have done all we could to get our rights back. This should have happened some time ago. It is now clear for me that this government is really trying hard to improve our lives.”
Media Resources: NY Times 4/4/15; DW 4/4/15; The Guardian 9/16/14; NY Times 11/26/14;